Google's Project Loon eyes a balloon 'flock'

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is employing data simulations to help it create evenly distributed flocks of balloons that will enable its Project Loon to deliver reliable Internet service to unserved and underserved areas.

In a YouTube video posted by the company, Loon Rapid Evaluator Dan Piponi said there are ways to ensure "a nicely spaced flock of balloons" that will provide reliable coverage "rather than coverage every so often when a balloon passes by."

Video courtesy of Google.

Controlling the altitudes of individual Project Loon balloons will enable them to catch different currents of wind, enabling Google to keep them properly spaced and ensure consistent broadband service coverage for earthbound users.

"We have to guarantee that there's always a balloon available to move in whenever a balloon runs out," Piponi said.

He said he has used simulation to try numerous different ideas very quickly. His early simulations looked to nature for inspiration, whereby "each balloon does something similar to what birds do," which is watching their neighbors in the air and then spreading themselves out equidistantly.

Moving forward, Piponi said each of Google's balloons will have information regarding the actions of all of the other nearby balloons. "In future, it will probably be a much more sophisticated simulation," he said.

Project Loon first came to public attention in June, when Google announced its vision of deploying a ring of radio-equipped balloons to fly around the globe on stratospheric winds 12 miles above the earth and deliver Internet access at 3G or better speeds. Google has already tested Project Loon's balloons in New Zealand, and last month the company began enlisting residents of California's Central Valley for help in testing Project Loon.

Google's multifaceted efforts to expand wireless broadband Internet access worldwide dovetail with its other wireless product development efforts. On the device side, Google recently acquired smartwatch maker Wimm Labs. Wimm's employees are already working with Google's Android team, according to GigaOM.

For more:
- see this Engadget article
- see this Wired article
- see this Techradar article
- see this GigaOM article

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