Alphabet's 'Project Loon' Wi-Fi Balloons Have Split Into a Separate Company

Saturday, 14 October 2017 - 11:04AM
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Weird Science
Saturday, 14 October 2017 - 11:04AM
Alphabet's 'Project Loon' Wi-Fi Balloons Have Split Into a Separate Company
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A few years back, Google attempted to solve a problem relating to the massive chunks of the world that still have zero internet access. For areas with no cell towers, they thought up a different, clever solution - giant balloons that can navigate themselves and float where they're needed. Think of them as inflated, mobile cell towers.

This was given the not-so-serious name of Project Loon, and it's spent the past few years in development with Google's parent company, Alphabet (specifically Alphabet's "X" research and development lab). But that may no longer be the case, as according to Business Insider, a recent FCC filing listed Project Loon under "Loon Inc." If Loon has actually been incorporated, it'll mean big things for the high-tech balloons.

Overall, this is a good sign that Project Loon is about to get bigger. While Alphabet hasn't officially announced Loon Inc. to the world, it's tough to conceal that in government document, so Alphabet might be holding off on a press release until they're ready to start commercializing the floating Wi-Fi balloons.



One particular reason Loon is coming up now is because they may be useful in hurricane relief. Alphabet was recently cleared by the FCC to test their balloons in Puerto Rico, which in the wake of the hurricane, could benefit immensely from a successful deployment of airborne, mobile cell towers. It was this "Experimental License" filing from the FCC where the term "Loon Inc." was first found.

With most of the territory's power lines and cell towers out of commission, Project Loon was cleared to provide emergency LTE service. Alphabet's X lab will need to partner with a local telecommunications company first, which it's working on, but the balloons are close to floating out over the area.



What's also impressive about Project Loon/Loon Inc. is that the balloons are capable of machine learning. Rather than attempt to manually control each balloon (it'll likely take around a dozen balloons at minimum to provide service to one area), X is teaching the balloons to learn to navigate wind currents on their own. 

Considering how far a simple change in wind currents could knock a hot air balloon off course, it'll be important for that many balloons to each have the ability to move themselves from place to place, once the sky is filling up with them.

Those who are suspicious of AI might not like sky being full of such things, but so long as they can only float around and provide internet access, they're some of the less dangerous machines out there.
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