Google’s Project Loon balloon traveled around the world in 22 days

Avatar By Aaron Sims | 6 years ago

A few weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook was considering putting drones in the air to help deliver internet service to underdeveloped nations. Now, however, it appears that Facebook is not the only big technology company working to help connect the entire world via the web. On the contrary, according to an article published this morning by  Industry Leaders Magazine, Google’s “Project Loon” – a network of balloons meant to serve as floating wireless hotspots – just notched a major accomplishment: one of its balloons managed to circle the entire globe in just 22 days.

The Wi-Fi broadcasting balloon that scored the just-over-three-week revolution time is codenamed Ibis-167, and has previously secured milestones for Google’s Project Loon operation. Previously, Ibis-167’s record time for a lap around the globe had been 33 days, making the new achievement a notable improvement. Beyond just setting time records and grabbing headlines, though, the newfound speed of the Project Loon balloons is a major accomplishment for Google because it means that the company will be better able in the future to deliver emergency internet service to areas that really need it. On top of good timing, Ibis-167 also just marked the 500,000th kilometer of its journey, proving the consistency and longevity of the project.

Since the ultimate goal of Project Loon is to keep the balloons in the air for years at a time, these latest accomplishments serve as a big step in the right direction. Of course, wind directions and currents helped to speed Ibis-167 to its latest milestone, and those conditions may not always be in place for future flights. For instance, Google said that much of the success of the speedy flight were the “Roaring Forties” winds in the southern hemisphere, rippling west-to-east winds that helped Ibis-167 rapidly cross oceans.

However, even though Mother Nature certainly plays a role in how fast the Project Loon balloons travel (and, to a certain extent, in where they travel), Google has been working lately on making new technological improvements to the balloon. Detailed algorithms help manage flight paths and maintain navigational control even in strong winds, while the pumps that control the air levels and overall elevation of the balloons have also been given recent overhauls to make them more powerful.