How Project Loon Is Building a Wind Schedule for Balloons


In the latest Ask Away series video by Project Loon, Dan explains to us how the team is building a kind of wind schedule to help Loon balloons arranging themselves properly in the stratosphere, to provide the best internet coverage on the ground.

Project Loon, which is still a project under development by Google, aims to bring Internet access to anyone on Earth, even those residing in remote, rural areas on the planet, by means of tech balloons flying in the stratosphere, on the edge of the space. We are basically talking about a worldwide and gigantic Wi-Fi connection.

Project Loon started just a while ago a YouTube video series called Ask Away, explaining concepts and experiments behind this bold project. They regularly post videos on both their Google+ page and YouTube channel. The series was called Ask Away mainly because you can ask questions, if you have any; all you need to do is posting your question on Google+, and include the #AskAway hashtag.

Project Loon and Wind Data

In this latest video by Project Loon, Dan explains to us how Loon balloons are able to adjust their position up in the stratosphere to optimize Internet coverage on the ground. It’s important to understand how wind blows, for every balloon has to get in the right place at the right time. To do that balloons need to have their own wind schedule – as much as travelers have a train program. Dan shows us how they are tackling the problem of creating this kind of wind timetable.

As Dan explains in the video at the bottom of this page, the altitude the balloons fly at is above 99% of the atmosphere. That basically means there is a lot of the same physical challenges as if the balloons were flying outer space; and yet they still have to deal with the disorderly nature of wind patterns. The important thing here is to know where winds are and how they behave in the stratosphere, so the balloons can surf those winds with ease, and get in the right direction.

In order to do that, Project Loon has been using data from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, which gives the best prediction of patterns the winds are going to have high up in the stratosphere.

Dan explains another interesting concept. You might wonder: do those balloons fly at the same speed as the wind? It actually turns out they do. They know that simply because they installed some microphones on the balloons, and all seems pretty quiet while they are in the stratosphere; indicating there is no wind rushing past, which means the balloons fly at the same speed as the wind itself.

At present time, Loon project is flying just a few balloons in the stratosphere, but that gives them already a lot of data for further improvements. On the top of that, gathering more and more data will give Loon the chance to fly even a greater number of balloons with more confidence than in the past, improving of course the understanding of the stratosphere and the whole project too.

Enjoy now the video presented by Dan.

Intro image: Sunset Flight.jpg courtesy of Michael J. Slezak
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