Google, or rather its Alphabet parent, has given up on its plans to get drones to deliver Internet connections to remote places. That means that Project Loon, which now falls unde Alphabet’s X subsidiary, will bear the brunt of the responsibilities and expectations. Good thing, then, that the folks behind Loon have stumbled upon a method that allows these Internet-bearing balloons to linger over an area for longer periods of time.
The trick to Project Loon’s Internet delivery service is to have a continuous stream of balloons riding wind currents to keep afloat as well as traverse the world. When one balloon leaves the area, another quickly takes its place. The problem with this system is that it needs a continuous stream of balloons, which isn’t exactly a scalable solution.
Luckily, the team serendipitously came across an alternative. They noticed that balloons tended to linger over certain areas far longer than they estimated. Adjusting their algorithms and improving their navigation system, Project Loon was able to make that a more consistent feature rather than an accidental one.
In effect, this meant that Project Loon could start deploying these balloons in clusters that could stay in the same area for months at a time. And when one or two balloons needed to travel out of that area, another would take its place in the cluster.
X says that this has led to a “100x reduction” in the amount of balloons that they need to deploy to deliver consistent Internet connectivity in a given place for prolonged periods of time. Of course, this translates to a more efficient and more economical system that would help keep costs down when, and if, Project Loon does become an official service.