Google’s Project Loon Balloon Goes Around the World in 22 Days

Google's efforts to bring Internet everywhere are taking shape

Google’s crazy idea to provide wireless Internet to remote locations via balloons is shaping up to be quite awesome. In fact, the company has announced that one of its balloons flew “a lap around the world in 22 days,” while the project’s 500,000th kilometer has been reached.

Project Loon was unveiled last year and it features solar-powered balloons that will be used to create networks that can send wireless Internet signals to remote areas that would be hard to reach with regular, wired Internet.

The balloons are supposed to form the network above ground, each of them communicating with its neighbors and the ground stations connected to the Internet. People would get Internet with the help of antennas installed on buildings.

This is only a prototype out of Google X’s lab, but it’s a fairly awesome idea that will help reach a lot more locations.

The company’s balloon that managed to circle the world made a few loops around the Pacific Ocean, traveled toward Chile and Argentina and then circled back across New Zealand and Australia.

“Along the way, it caught a ride on the Roaring Forties—strong west-to-east winds in the southern hemisphere that act like an autobahn in the sky, where our balloons can quickly zoom over oceans to get to where people actually need them,” Google said.

The company has been using the data to build complex algorithms to manage the flying patterns for the balloons.

“Since last June, we’ve been using the wind data we’ve collected during flights to refine our prediction models and are now able to forecast balloon trajectories twice as far in advance. In addition, the pump that moves air in or out of the balloon has become three times more efficient, making it possible to change altitudes more rapidly to quickly catch winds going in different directions,” Google brags.

Thanks to these algorithm improvements, Google managed to avoid letting the balloon get pulled into the polar vortex, for instance.

“We can spend hours and hours running computer simulations, but nothing teaches us as much as actually sending the balloons up into the stratosphere during all four seasons of the year,” Google points out.

It’s unclear how long it’s going to take Google to test this project out before it starts implementing it around the world, but it could be a matter of years before the company is happy enough with the results to release it.

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