Alphabet Loon hands over control of its Internet balloons to self-learning AI

Alphabet Loon hands over control of its Internet balloons to self-learning AI


Alphabet Holding Loon announced that it has reached an important milestone in a project aimed at providing Internet access to rural and remote residents using helium balloons. Its navigation system is no longer controlled by human-developed software.

Instead, the company now operates Internet balloons using artificial intelligence – specifically, a set of algorithms developed and executed by a deep reinforcement learning (RL) flight control system that is more efficient than the one created by Loon programmers. The system currently operates the Loon balloon park over Kenya, where Loon launched its first commercial internet service in July. This launch was preceded by the testing of internet balls in a series of disaster and other emergency relief programs for most of the past decade.

Loon said its system is the world’s first implementation of this type of AI in commercial aerospace. In doing so, it actually surpasses the system developed by humans. “As part of our test simulation, we were able to not only reproduce, but also significantly improve our navigation system using RL“Said Sal Candido, CTO at Loon.

In the first real-world test in Peru in July 2019, an AI-controlled flight system competed against a traditional system controlled by Loon’s StationSeeker algorithm. Loon claims that her system can “Serve as proof that RL can be useful for managing complex systems in the real world for continuous and dynamic activities.”

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