Alphabet’s Project Loon balloon has now learned to loiter
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Alphabet’s (then Google) Project Loon was introduced back in 2013, to deliver internet connectivity to remote areas where there is minimal or absolutely no network coverage.

The network components are attached to a hot-air balloon which navigates through these locations.

This saves time and money for telecom partners who have to normally set up hardware in these remote areas, as they can simply hire Loon units for covering a specific location.

The project is still under development, and the brand is testing its possibilities at various locations. However, now the project has added a little AI goodness to the mix which has altered the way the way the balloons move in the atmosphere.

Earlier, the balloons were programmed to fly in a chain formation from where the entire fleet of Loons hovered around through land and oceans. As one balloon drifted out of range of a specific location, another balloon would instantly move in to take its spot. The chain was planned to go all the way across the globe.

For this, the team learned the wind patterns for years to get better manoeuvrability, while maintaining a stable flight. However, with the inclusion of AI into the way these balloons move, the team witnessed that a batch of Loons sent together to a specific location, circle or loiter at that very location in a group.

Also Read: What Happened to Google Fiber?

Applying this new AI algorithm, the Loon team managed to have balloons circle around in Peruvian airspace (after launching from Puerto Rico) for up to three months.

What this translates to is that only necessary Loons will fly across the airspace, and not an entire chain of Loons across the globe, as it was planned earlier. So the number of Loons required would be considerably less, which in-turn will make it more cost-effective for telecos who would potentially avail their services.

This will also be more efficient, as hovering a Loon over a sea or an Ocean won’t make sense as there are no people there to connect to the internet.

The Loon is still far from perfect, but it does seem like we’re closer to it than ever.