Google’s Project Loon will deploy a small number of balloons in regions requiring internet access rather than build a worldwide network, which means it can become a commercial operation quicker than previously thought.
The Loon team said it can keep the balloons in a concentrated location thanks to better altitude control and navigation systems. The balloons can also adjust how they fly using artificial intelligence software.
“The reason this is so exciting is we can now run an experiment and try to give services in particular places of the world with 10 or 20 or 30 balloons, not with 200 or 300 or 400 balloons” said Astro Teller, head of X, the experimental division of Google’s parent Alphabet. “The service has a much better chance of ultimately being profitable.”
Google will test this with telecommunications providers “in the coming months,” Teller added.
Last month, Alphabet closed its unit investigating the viability of delivering internet connectivity from drones – known as Project Titan – to focus on Loon.
In a statement, the company said one of the reasons for closing Titan was the “economics and technical feasibility of Loon present a much more promising way to connect rural and remote parts of the world.”