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Google's WiFi-carrying balloon circles the world in under a month

It was originally expected that Google’s balloon would complete a trip in 33 days, but the Ibis-167 managed to complete the journey with 11 days to spare.

Image: Google Loom

GOOGLE’S PLAN TO deliver internet access to remote parts of the world via balloons is very much a work in progress, but the company says one of its balloons completed a lap around the world in 22 days.

The balloons, part of Project Loon, were originally said to make the trip within 33 days and are designed to stay up for 100 days, enough to complete three trips around the globe.

However, the Ibis-167 model was able to beat that time by 11 days and clocked the project’s 500,000th kilometre as it begins its second lap.

It enjoyed a few loop-de-loops over the Pacific ocean before heading east on the winds toward Chile and Argentina, and then made its way back around near Australia and New Zealand.

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 to where people actually need them.

The company uses complex algorithms to manage the balloons’ flight patterns, and these tests help it improve the system.

The balloons have flown through wind speeds ranging from 2 knots to 75 knots, during all four seasons of the year. They are equipped with a pump allows it to change altitude so it can catch wind currents.

Google announced the project last June and the balloons are solar-powered, remote-controlled and can navigate atmospheric winds 12 miles above the the Earth’s surface.

The project is similar to Internet.org’s Connectivity Lab, a project backed by Facebook that uses solar-powered drones and satellites to deliver wireless internet access.

Read: Whatsapp experiences busiest day as it handled 64 billion messages in 24 hours >

Read: How Facebook and other tech giants want to give the whole world internet access >

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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