BRIDGWATER is at the forefront of new technology after a company based in the town produced new drone technology for social media giant Facebook.

Facebook has launched a new drone initiative called Project Aquila, which involved building a solar-powered aircraft to fly for months over remote places, sending down an internet connection.

The new drones, which can fly up to 90,000 foot high - almost triple that of a standard aircraft - launched their maiden voyage on Thursday after being produced by specialist firm Ascenta, based in a warehouse in Bridgwater.

Two years ago Facebook bought Ascenta in Bridgwater, which specialises in solar-powered drones. Former owner Andy Cox, also from Bridgwater, is now the lead engineer spearheading Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's project.

After it was finished at the start of June, the drone was dismantled and taken in pieces to Arizona and was reassembled for its first unmanned flight.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook creator, was in Arizona to see it take off, with the global head of engineering, Jay Parikh, heading to Somerset frequently to oversee progress.

A spokesman for Project Aquila said: "Aquila is a solar-powered aeroplane that can be used to bring affordable internet to hundreds of millions of people in the hardest-to-reach places.

"Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimetre wave systems.

"Aquila is designed to be hyper efficient, so it can fly for up to three months at a time.

"The aircraft has the wingspan of an airliner, but at cruising speed it will consume only 5,000 watts — the same amount as three hair dryers, or a high-end microwave.

"This first functional check was a low-altitude flight, and it was so successful that we ended up flying Aquila for more than 90 minutes — three times longer than originally planned.

"To reach our goal of being able to fly over a remote region and deliver connectivity for up to three months at time, we will need to break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight, which currently stands at two weeks.

"New technologies like Aquila have the potential to bring access, voice and opportunity to billions of people around the world, and do so faster and more cost-effectively than has ever been possible before."

Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, said in a statement on his Facebook page: "After two years of engineering, I'm proud to announce the successful first flight of Aquila -the solar-powered plane we designed to beam internet to remote parts of the world

"We gathered lots of data about our models and the aircraft structure and after two years of development, it was emotional to see Aquila actually get off the ground.

"But as big as this milestone is, we still have a lot of work to do.

"Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000 feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at a time- something that's never been done before."