For those of you who are unaware of Project Loon yet. They are a development research project run by X (Once called Google X) whose intent is to offer internet access to hard to reach rural areas.
This Google project uses high-altitude balloons placed around 18 km high into the stratosphere, creating aerial wireless networks. The services provide speeds up to 4G-LTE.
The internet balloons use wind data from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to float and maneuver by altering their speed and direction. The devices are equipped with patch antennas and send signals to stations on the ground.
The Project Loon Team upgraded the internet balloons with up to date navigation technology, with an idea to maximise the time the aircraft spend in the air where people are in need of their connectivity.
This summer the balloons drifted over Peru for a total of 98 days from their launch site in Puerto Rico. Over the course of roughly three months, dozens of altitude adjustments were made to keep the devices at the correct height, speed, and location.
Originally the balloons were only able to move up and down, similar to hot air balloons, but now, Project Loon is hoping to upgrade even further to AI-like (artificial intelligence) capabilities, or rather new algorithms in a more efficient way.
Initially, the balloons used their data from NOAA to set it algorithms to a particular altitude, location or speed. But now the new AI-like algorithms learn over time, and get better based off of experience and change their behaviour in the future said Wired.
“We have more machine learning in more of the right places,” says Sal Candido, the former Google engineer who oversaw the Loon Project. “These algorithms are handling things more efficiently than any person could.” “Instead of being over oceans, we can spend more time over users,” says Candido
The newest algorithms that The Project Loon balloons will be outfitted with are not perfect, mainly because well, the weather is not perfect, far from it, rather unpredictable. Over time the team hopes the balloons will get better and better with each launch.