First flight of Google’s Project Loon balloon circles globe in 22 days

4 Apr 2014

The flight path of the Project Loon balloon

One of Google’s Project Loon solar-powered balloons has beaten expectations by circling the globe in a journey of more than 50,000km in just 22 days.

The amount of time it took the balloon to circle the Earth was 11 days less than the previous estimate of 33 days.

The project is part of the company’s plans, similar to Facebook’s, to bring the internet to some of the most remote locations on the planet by launching thousands of internet-transmitting balloons.

The Project Loon team revealed details of the balloon’s journey, which launched last June, in a Google+ blog post.

The team has been using wind data collected during flights to refine its prediction models with the hope of being able to forecast balloon trajectories twice as far in advance.

According to the team, it has also made significant findings regarding the advancement of the balloon’s technology.

“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 … We can spend hours and hours running computer simulations, but nothing teaches us as much as actually sending the balloons up into the stratosphere during all four seasons of the year.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic