After what has been years of delay, Google’s Loon project seems to be finally taking off with its first commercial deployment in Kenya.
These balloons will travel thousands of miles, from either Puerto Rico or Nevada, to Kenya, where the function 65,000 feet above the ground, in Earth’s stratosphere. The journey of about 11,000 kms is covered by ascending the Nairobi balloons in the stratosphere, from where they take the “fastest route that drifting on the stratospheric winds allows.”
“To determine that route our software automation builds a map. Numerical weather forecasts are built throughout the day by weather centers around the world, and we assimilate the outputs of those models to create an ever-changing global estimate of how long it takes to reach our destination, Kenya, from everywhere in the stratosphere,” Loon’s blog read.
Reaching Kenya is just part of the journey, but the way these balloons maximise coverage is another piece of art. The company compares the process to a “choreographed dance”, which is coordinated by its machine learning-driven navigation algorithms. These balloons keep jumping, virtually, going up and down, catching different air currents and circumventing in fixed geographical locations to provide 24 hour stable internet with as much coverage as possible.
The company also expressed its grief over the COVID 19 crisis, stating that its service are now more important than ever. At a time where people are struggling to keep in touch with each other, providing internet services where they weren’t available is not only noble, but economically rewarding as well. Thus, the company has a huge opportunity for a massive launch in the country.
“Now more than ever, the divide between people who can get online in their home and those that service doesn’t quite reach is apparent, and the importance of making it possible for everyone to have access to the Internet has never been so clear in our day to day lives,” read the blog from the company. “It is with this spirit that the Loon team continues our work to bring our network online in Kenya as quickly as we can, and to continue to work towards our mission to connect people everywhere,” it added.