Google AI is now piloting Loon’s internet-beaming balloons

Alphabet’s Loon has shifted to a different type of navigation system for its internet-beaming balloons. Rather than relying on algorithms designed by humans, the balloons are using an artificial intelligence system Loon developed with Google AI over the last few years. 



a person flying through the air on top of a mountain: Loon balloon in flight


© Loon
Loon balloon in flight

A reinforcement learning (RL) system is now in charge of navigation for a fleet of balloons over Kenya, where Loon switched on its first commercial service earlier this year. Loon says this is the first use of an RL model in “a production aerospace system.” It also noted the “development is exciting because it shows that reinforcement learning can be applied to real-world use cases.” RL systems have previously figured out how to beat top Go and Dota 2 players.

Loon’s AI can figure out the optimal route for balloons significantly faster than the previous navigation system. It does so with more efficiency

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Alphabet’s Loon hands the reins of its internet air balloons to self-learning AI

Alphabet’s Loon, the team responsible for beaming internet down to Earth from stratospheric helium balloons, has achieved a new milestone: its navigation system is no longer run by human-designed software.



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© Image: Loon


Instead, the company’s internet balloons are steered around the globe by an artificial intelligence — in particular, a set of algorithms both written and executed by a deep reinforcement learning-based flight control system that is more efficient and adept than the older, human-made one. The system is now managing Loon’s fleet of balloons over Kenya, where Loon launched its first commercial internet service in July after testing its fleet in a series of disaster relief initiatives and other test environments for much of the last decade.

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Loon’s internet balloons are now piloted by an AI flight control system

Similar to how researchers have achieved breakthrough AI advances in teaching computers to play sophisticated video games

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