Project Loon engineers now have tweaked control algorithms to allow the sending of small teams of balloons to form a cluster over a specific region, Google now says. As a direct result, Project Loon will be able to “put together a Loon network over a particular region in weeks not months, and it would be a lot less work to launch and manage,” according to Astro Teller, Google X captain of moonshots.
The key breakthrough is that engineers can now harness wind currents in any direction–north, south, east or west, to essentially create a circular flight pattern over any region. “This is a shift from our original model for Loon in which we planned to create rings of balloons sailing around the globe, and balloons would take turns moving through a region to provide service,” said Teller
That is expected to have direct economic repercussions, allowing Loon to reduce the number of balloons needed in the fleet as well as reducing the cost of deploying each network. Project Loon believes the reduction in total number of balloons will be quite substantial, reducing balloon fleets by as much as an order of magnitude (10 times).