Alphabet division Google X has hailed a huge breakthrough in its plans to connect remote areas to the internet using balloons.
Google X, which is behind "Project Loon", has said that by introducing machine learning techniques, it has been able to predict weather systems, allowing more granular control.
This means that instead of covering the earth with scores of balloons that sit 11 miles above the ground, they will be able to hone in on particular areas using balloons as geostationary satellites. The balloons can be raised or lowered to take advantage of prevailing weather systems.
"We can now run an experiment and try to give service in a particular place in the world with ten, twenty or thirty balloons," said Google X "Captain of Moonshots, Astro Teller.
The new technique is a reduction in balloon count of up to ninety percent over the previous model and is said to bring the project years closer to reality.
Although not as long term as a full satellite, the balloons are able to carry more data, more cheaply, with a recent test over Peru lasted three months.
In the past, testing has gone awry, with a major coastguard alert being sparked in New Zealand where a downed ‘Loon was mistaken for a shipwreck by a passer-by.
It's an example of one of the many failures for Google X that have left shareholders questioning the validity of the ventures. Bill Gates questioned the validity of the project in 2013, pointing out that WiFi was no use to a child dying of malaria.
Teller countered this, saying: "It's still a surprise to many of us that Loon is looking as promising as it is; for years, the team focused their efforts on proving that Loon wouldn't work. Even the Project name tells you that our mindset when we got started was more 'worth a shot' rather than 'this could work'.
"Yet with each passing year, we keep finding the next steps on the path to making balloon-powered Internet a reality".
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