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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