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Project Loon Circles the World in 22 Days on Wild Adventure

by Todd Haselton | April 6, 2014April 6, 2014 9:00 am PST

The race for providing Internet to billions of people who don’t have it is on. Google is attempting to do so with Project Loon, where it will work to provide Internet using high-floating balloons. Facebook, meanwhile, is going to start attempting something similar using drones. Project Loon is off to a solid start, and Google recently announced that one of its balloons circumnavigated the world in just 22 days, recently flying more than 500,000 kilometers as it starts on its second lap around the globe.

“It enjoyed a few loop-de-loops over the Pacific ocean before heading east on the winds toward Chile and Argentina,” the company explained on Google+ recently. “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 where people actually need them.” Google is using the data from the current Project Loon flight to “refine prediction models” for future endeavors, and to help avoid any crashes. By circumnavigating the world, Google is able to test all four seasons, and see how its balloons can handle wind speeds ranging from just 2 knots to up to 75 knots.

“There were times, for example, when this balloon could have been pulled into the polar vortex – large, powerful wind currents that whip around in a circle near the stratosphere in the polar region,” Google explained, noting that predictive research helped the company steer clear of those obstacles. Maneuvering an unmanned balloon around the globe seems impressive enough, but can Google really use flocks of Project Loon ballons to eventually provide Internet, too?

It will no doubt take many more flights around the globe until we find out.

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Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...