Google’s Project Loon: 22 days around the world

Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg took 80 days to get around the world in a balloon – if only he could’ve hitched a ride on Google’s “Project Loon” which took 22 days to make the same trip around our big blue planet we call Earth.

Of course Google’s isn’t manned – nor is it to break records. It is part of an ambitious attempt to bring the internet to the masses via balloon.

We reported on Project Loon previously and its potential to being connectivity to those in remote locations and/or developing countries. Bringing more people online can help boost these economies and therefore it’s hoped will also reduce poverty as a result.

Putting objects into the sky isn’t an easy task – and Google’s recent journey around the world wouldn’t have been successful without making changes before it launched. The model which completed the journey was called Ibis-167 and the team behind it wrote on the project’s Google+ page:

“Since last June, we've been using the wind data we've collected during flights to refine our prediction models and are now able to forecast balloon trajectories twice as far in advance. In addition, the pump that moves air in or out of the balloon has become three times more efficient, making it possible to change altitudes more rapidly to quickly catch winds going in different directions.

"There were times, for example, when this balloon could have been pulled into the polar vortex – large, powerful wind currents that whip around in a circle near the stratosphere in the polar region – but these improvements enabled us to manoeuvre around it and stay on course.”

Project Loon is part of Google’s – admirably crazy – X Labs. This secretive department of the world’s biggest web company also gave birth to wearable eyewear Google Glass.

The team has already sent Ibis-167 on its second journey to clock up its 311,000th mile and ensure the balloon’s hardiness for when the project get its full launch.

What do you think about the ambitious project?

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