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Alphabet’s Loon balloon sets new flight record over the stratosphere

2020-10-29 18:46 by
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Alphabet's subsidiary, Loon (formerly Project Loon by Google), achieved another step toward its goal to provide affordable internet access to billions of people located in far-flung areas of the world. One of the company's high-altitude internet Loon balloons, the HBAL703 set a new record of 312 flight days over the stratosphere, longer than the previous flight record of 223 days held by another Loon balloon.

The balloon, which smashed Loon's previous flight record by 89 days, launched from Puerto Rico in May 2019. From there it navigated to Peru at an altitude of around 12 miles (20 km) before clustering with other Loon balloons to provide a test internet service for a part of the nation that had lost its ground-based internet infrastructure in a recent earthquake.

Loon's CTO Sal Candido said in a blog post that the record-setting flight is the result of the company's continued work on advancing its technology and pushing both hardware and software forward in new and innovative ways.

The team launches a new balloon approximately once a week and at any given time has approximately 100 of them in flight at any given time. Each is monitored very closely by ground crew to assist with its flight—altitude changes are made on a regular basis, for example, to reduce exposure to extremely cold temperatures. The Loon team has also co-founded the HAPsAlliance—a group of like-minded companies and individuals dedicated to bringing connectivity to people everywhere.

Google brought Loon to life in 2011 with the idea of using clusters of balloons to deliver internet to underserved communities on the ground.

"It's easiest to think of them as floating cellphone towers," a Loon spokesperson told Digital Trends in 2018. "Loon works with mobile network operators to extend their networks to unconnected or under-connected communities."

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