Google's high-air ball project Project Loon guided its balloon formation to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last year to provide basic Internet services to more than 200,000 residents. How can it navigate to a specific place? Published by IEEE SpectrumDiscussed how its navigation system works.
Each balloon has a solar-powered pump that moves up and down by releasing or adding gas. With the help of the pump, the balloon can enter or leave the intermittent wind in the stratosphere. To create a navigation system, the Project Loon team needs to understand the movement of the stratospheric wind. They first used the models and forecasts published by scientific institutions, and then launched balloons to obtain data for the target area.
It is not possible to launch a balloon across all locations, so the team continues to run simulations to complement the model. Since the project was first tested in flight in 2013, the team has been running simulations. All simulations are used to debug the navigation system's models and algorithms. Its navigation system is highly automated. A balloon formation requires only one or two people to operate.
The system is still not perfect and is still in the experimental phase. Therefore, the Project Loon project does not currently share data externally.