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This article was published on August 31, 2013

Google explains how Project Loon smart balloons ‘flock’ to deliver consistent Internet coverage

Google explains how Project Loon smart balloons ‘flock’ to deliver consistent Internet coverage Image by: Getty Images
Jon Russell
Story by

Jon Russell

Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

Google launched one its most ambitious project to date when it unveiled Project Loon, its long-term project to provide balloon-powered Internet across the world, in June.

Loon is one of the Internet giant’s potentially world-changing efforts since it could bring millions of people in remote places online for the first time, but many have wondered how the floating, mesh-like network could deliver stable Internet coverage when taking into account factors like wind.

Google has now provided a fascinating explanation of how its smart balloons can be programmed to space out so as to provide consistent connectivity to receivers on the ground. The company says it found inspiration from nature and the way that birds flock together when they fly.

balloons

“They [the balloons] look at their near-neighbors and tried to spread each other out nicely,” says ‘Dan’, who on the Rapid Evaluation team at Google. “But as we move forward, we may use methods that take into account everything. So every balloon essentially will have information about what every other balloon is doing. In future, it will probably be a much more sophisticated simulation.”

Dan says that once they found that balloons could be spaced out and intelligent, Loon grew into “a feasible project not just some crazy science project.”

In this video he shows a simulation program that demonstrate how the balloons react to conditions around them and flock to ensure there are no gaps in their coverage.

Loon has been tested in New Zealand, and its expanding to California where Google is seeking volunteers to try out its ground-based modems.

Headline image via Thinkstock