High hopes are in store for Project Loon, one of Alphabet X's (formerly Google's semi-secret research and development department) moonshot projects.
In the beginning, the plan to deliver internet access to the world's "next billion" through the use of high-altitude balloons seemed like it might come crashing down just like a few of the company's other failed moonshots.
However, Astro Teller, the head of Alphabet X, said that despite a steep uphill development phase, the Project Loon finally got a break when its researchers created a balloon design that was both cheap to make and easy to navigate.
"We busted a lot of balloons," Teller shared during his talk at the annual TED conference. Alphabet X used balloons of all shapes and sizes, but the one that worked actually traveled around the world 19 times in just about 187 days.
Now that the technology works - the balloons can fly far and long enough while providing as much as 15 megabit-per-second internet speeds - the next phase of Project Loon is actually putting that technology to work.
"So we are going to keep going," Teller says, and they'll be heading towards the skies of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In that part of the world, Loon balloons will be providing real internet access to real consumers.
Specifically, in a deal between Alphabet and the Sri Lankan government, the two entities will be exchanging access to needed radio frequency spectrum on which the balloons will be transmitting data for a stake in the project. How the project works out there may determine if Project Loon rolls out to other parts of the world.
Alphabet has already submitted the required documents to the FCC to be able to test Project Loon balloons over U.S. soil. Its application states a starting date of Jan. 1, 2016 over a time span of two years. So far, however, Alphabet had to calm concerns about Loon balloons posing risks to the environment and humans, and interference to other wireless operations.
One day, hopefully, Project Loon's balloons will help deliver on the dream of bringing the world's last few billion people to the internet. Along the way, of course, Google won't be alone as Facebook has plans of using solar-powered drones to achieve the same goal. For now, Google's got the head start in making that dream come true.