February 17, 2017
Google’s Project Loon may not be so looney after all.
The Project Loon team has been hard at work over the past few years to prove weather balloons are a feasible method to bring wireless Internet to rural and remote areas worldwide. Project Loon uses weather balloons that can last up to 100 days. These balloons float about 20 kilometres above the Earth’s surface and are capable of creating a roughly 40-kilometer signal radius.
An “unexpected discovery” has propelled the project quickly forward in the past few months thanks to the team’s advances in its Smart software algorithms that aid the balloons in their navigation of the globe.
“Project Loon’s algorithms can now send small teams of balloons to form a cluster over a specific region where people need Internet access,” Google X laboratories director Astro Teller said in a blog post. “This is a shift from our original model for Loon in which we planned to create rings of balloons sailing around the globe, and balloons would take turns moving through a region to provide service.”
Teller said the artificial intelligence being used will get smarter as it is tested in new parts of the world where the AI will have to learn to deal with varying conditions.
With improved navigation and altitude control, Project Loon is beginning to look like a good economic risk, he added. And improvements in the project means a Loon network can be put together over a particular region in weeks rather than months — meaning launching and managing it has become easier.
“We’ll reduce the number of balloons we need and get greater value out of each one,” he said. “All of this helps reduce the costs of operating a Loon-powered network, which is good news for the telco partners we’ll work with around the world to make Loon a reality, and critical given that cost has been one key factor keeping reliable Internet from people living in rural and remote regions.”
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.