Google X Lab Asks For Airspace Access From UN: Project Loon To Fly Across The Globe


Google wants to bring internet connection to remote parts of the world, but first it had to go through the United Nations' aviation agency to get clearance for crossing the airspace of its members.

Google X Lab, the visionary arm of the tech company, aims to deploy a network of helium balloons floating in the stratosphere, each of them beaming a strong 4G signal to non-urban, hard to reach areas.

The ambitious initiative debuted in 2013 under the name "Project Loon" and saw its first balloon launch in February in South Africa. The balloon force landed (read: crashed) over a tea plantation in Sri Lanka.

Google's parent company, Alphabet, had an inked deal Sri Lanka to deliver internet to hardly accessible areas from the country. The nation's Information and Communication Technology Agency, which teamed up with the tech company to control and coordinate the tests, called the landing as safe and on time.

Google went in front of the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and presented its latest balloons as "significantly improved" in all aspects, whether we look at design, manufacture or launch procedure.

X Lab touts that the new edition of balloons can stay in the air more than 100 days, and the robust devices are propelled in the stratosphere via a custom built auto-launcher.

As Google's X Lab embedded machine learning and artificial intelligence in the balloon's software, the device is able to crunch wind data and pair it with its own flight schedule. This allows Project Loon devices to predict air flow through the stratosphere, leading to a smooth ride in which the balloons are constantly adjusting their altitude in order to sync with existing winds and finding the best route to reach "a given service area."

During the ICAO assembly, Alphabet urged the member states to assist it into delivering internet to remote areas.

In order to do that, Google's parent company asked states to sign "bilateral or multilateral letters of agreement" with neighboring countries and Project Loon.

According to an X Lab spokesperson, Project Loon puts a high price on both "safety and coordination" with the ICAO.

Loon is in its final stages of devising a safety plan and wrapping up its operations center.

Google is not the first big name in tech that attempts to empower remote regions with internet access. Earlier this year, Facebook started a similar project that aims to deliver internet access to remote areas by using solar drones.

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