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Google's AI Can Keep Loon Balloons Flying for Over 300 Days in a Row

By New Scientist

December 7, 2020

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An artificially intelligent pilot developed by Alphabet's balloon-manufacturing subsidiary Loon can keep huge stratospheric balloons aloft in a fixed position for hundreds of days to operate as floating cell towers for remote regions.

The pilot, trained via deep reinforcement learning, compensates for the harsh winds at those altitudes by releasing air to descend or adding it to ascend, riding currents in the desired direction.

The artificially intelligent controller consults historical wind records, weather forecasting, and current local wind patterns to model various scenarios and determine the optimal course.

Loon earlier this year announced that a balloon using such a controller had achieved a new continuous stratospheric endurance record of 312 days.

From New Scientist
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