Opinion: Why Facebook's solar-powered plane flight is a big deal for the internet

During his keynote at F8 2016 in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out the social network’s plan for the next 10 years. It involves, in simplest terms, connecting the entire world via the internet, and he described various ways Facebook intends to do so.

Facebook’s plan calls for some heady initiatives, like building its own Wi-Fi network and sending satellites to space. It’s wildly ambitious for a company often best known for baby pictures and Chewbacca Mom, and not something I gave full credence when I first heard Zuck lay it all out. Plenty of companies talk a big talk, but how many of them ever pull off what they say they’re going to?

I’m still not completely convinced Facebook can connect all the reaches of the world (or a lot of them) with the internet – not least because if its various efforts don’t make money, shareholders could start grumbling – but as time’s passed, Facebook has shown it’s committed to developing the tech it’s talking about.

That’s the story today as Facebook announced it held the first full-scale test flight of Aquila, its solar-powered, internet-delivering drone plane, sending the aircraft soaring for 96 minutes straight over the Arizona desert.