Google has been getting a lot of attention the last couple weeks as the industry tries to figure out what the company may reveal next week in a big October 4th announcement. The search giant is not the only part of the Alphabet portfolio with exciting news to share though. Over the weekend the Project Loon team revealed they had reached a new milestone by keeping one of their balloons not only aloft, but confined to a relatively narrow area of air space for 98 days.
Project Loon is a former Google “moonshot” project with the goal of creating a network of high-altitude balloons that can then provide Internet access to regions of the globe where the cost may be prohibitive to provide access through traditional means. Project Loon has been in the works for a while now and the team has previously succeeded at keeping a balloon aloft for at least 100 days.
The team’s announcement via their Google+ page over the weekend demonstrated how they are taking that baseline and making improvements. Rather than just maintaining a balloon in the stratosphere following the prevailing winds, the team wanted to try to keep one of the balloons floating over a specific area. The team succeeded in keeping a balloon within Peruvian airspace for 98 days.
The journey started in Puerto Rico and the balloon took 12 days to travel to an area around Chimbote, Peru. Once there, new technology took over as Project Loon’s algorithms started searching out favorable wind patterns to keep the balloon within range. This meant relying on a vast database of wind patterns that Google has built over time and then making altitude adjustments. During the course of the test flight, the balloon adjusted altitude 20,000 times in the 98 day period.
Google is getting so successful at controlling the balloons that they were even able to guide it in for a controlled descent and landing in southern Peru when the test was over.