Google unveils new progress on Project Loon

Posted on 22 Apr 2015 by Michael Cruickshank

Google has revealed new details on the progress of its moonshot ‘Project Loon’ programme aimed at providing the Internet to unconnected regions.

Project Loon aims to bring internet connectivity to the entire world though a network of interconnected high-altitude balloons. These balloons are autonomous, and rely on air currents for navigation and propulsion.

In a new video Google has announced that they are very close of to a full scale roll-out of the technology, following a series of tests.

A Google Project Loon balloon in flight. Image courtesy of Google.
A Google Project Loon balloon in flight. Image courtesy of Google.

They also went into significant detail as to some of the manufacturing difficulties which they faced during the process of perfecting these internet-balloons.

“Each piece of the process… had to scale up. It was pretty challenging — getting the balloons to be more durable and more long lasting,” explained Mike Cassidy, Project Lead for Project Loon

The primary problem was finding a way to make balloons which could survive long periods in the air.

“For a while, many of [the balloons] leaked, and they would come down over the course of a few hours or a few days,” Cassidy said. “Now our balloons last over 100 days.”

Furthermore, Google needed to find a way to produce the balloons en masse, before the technology could be rolled out globally.

“At first it would take us 3 or 4 days to tape together a balloon. Today, through our own manufacturing facility, the automated systems can get a balloon produced in just a few hours. We are getting close of the point where we can roll-out thousands of balloons,” continued Cassidy.

In addition to this ramped up production of the balloons themselves, a new automated crane system allows the company to launch dozens of the balloons on any given day.

On the software side, advanced mission control programs for Project Loon have been created, allowing for the tracking and monitoring of the exact positions of the balloons.

While Google has no set timetable for a global roll-out of the tech, they are optimistic that this will happen sooner rather than later.

“The technology is working. We are getting close to the point where we can deliver the internet to people around the world.”