Bringing internet connectivity to remote or underserved areas has been a goal of major tech companies for some time. Although Facebook shut its program down, it had planned on doing so with large drones known as Aquila. But Alphabet’s Loon is still in the game, utilizing massive balloons to beam connectivity to the ground.
Today, Loon announced it has achieved a new milestone by creating a linked network that spanned 621.3 miles using seven balloons.
The experiment was conducted in the skies nearly 12.5 miles over Nevada, Loon wrote in a blog post. Using the seven balloons, the team sent data packets a total of 621.3 miles. And that was just the beginning. A few weeks later, it achieved connectivity over 373 miles using just two balloons.
“The thing about people is that they tend to live all over the place,” Loon wrote in its blog post. “Even with our balloons’ expanded coverage area — which is 20 to 30 times greater than a traditional ground-based system — there are people who live outside the reach of one of our balloons operating adjacent to a backhaul connection on the ground. If we can extend our reach by passing that connection across a network of balloons, like a cosmic soccer team advancing the ball through the sky, we can cover far more people.”
Ultimately, the idea is use the balloons to bring connectivity to areas without internet infrastructure. Loon plans to launch its service commercially next year.