Loon balloon offered take a look at service for 3 months, then examined the boundaries of flight length

Loon balloon HBAL703 achieved one thing that none of its silvery, high-flying compatriots have: 312 days hovering in Earth’s stratosphere.

HBAL703 launched from Puerto Rico in Could of 2019, navigated to Peru, after which offered take a look at service for 3 months, in accordance with a Medium post documenting the accomplishment and Loon’s work to determine a stratospheric balloon that may fly for prolonged intervals with the intention to present telecommunications providers. After that three-month interval, Loon despatched HBAL703 south to circumnavigate the globe. It will definitely settled over the Pacific Ocean, the place it floated for one more seven months and ultimately landed in Baja, Mexico in March of this 12 months, the place it was recovered for additional evaluation by a Loon staff.

“This new length report is thrilling not as a result of we flew one balloon for 312 days, however as a result of it’s a very seen indicator that our efforts to make all of our flight programs last more is working,” wrote Salvatore Candido, CTO of Loon. 

Candido additionally mentioned in a footnote that HBAL703 was additionally collaborating in “a really thrilling navigation system experiment… Extra on that to return.”

Within the Medium put up, Candido gave the broad outlines of Loon’s work to engineer a greater balloon: Attempting completely different supplies, kind components and strategies for constructing the balloons; operating detailed simulations previous to flight; and recovering its programs and doing painstaking information evaluation, together with digital scanning of all the bodily balloon as soon as it has been recovered. “We’ve tried loads of issues, and a few of them have seemed fairly unusual,” he added, noting that Loon balloons have, and proceed to be, noticed and recognized as UFOs (or “ovnis”, in Spanish”), typically exhibiting up on Twitter. He mentioned that Loon has a fleet of almost 100 programs in flight and launches balloons almost each week.

Whereas Loon has in the end discovered that standard knowledge on stratospheric balloons to be “directionally appropriate,” Candido mentioned, its willingness to strive various things has “uncovered some key improvements which have unlocked a capability to fly succesful and long-lasting flight programs within the stratosphere. In the present day, our flight system seems extra like a balloon-based excessive altitude platform (HAP) than a traditional stratospheric balloon.”

So, Candido mentioned, what can a balloon do for a 12 months within the stratosphere?

“We use them primarily for connectivity, however we’re starting to know that that is simply scratching the floor of the chance offered by the stratosphere,” he wrote. Loon sees the stratosphere as a “massive opportunity” for telecom, high-resolution earth commentary and climate prediction and modeling; it co-founded the HAPs Alliance with Softbank in April of this 12 months to focus on the house. The alliance additionally consists of carriers China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Bharti Airtel.

On a extra sensible stage for the current, an extended flight length for Loon programs means a decrease value per flight-hour. “Longer Loon flights allow us to attain and persist in locations (like over the center of the Pacific ocean) which can be usually laborious to stay for prolonged intervals of time,” Candido wrote. “That each one provides as much as having the ability to scale our cell towers within the sky to extra folks and locations, and proceed towards our mission of connecting folks in all places.”