Now you would be wondering what does Loon balloon actually mean, well Loon is a subsidiary brand of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. Loon is a project which aims to provide internet connectivity to places no one thought would be possible because still billions of people lack basic internet access.
Now, Alphabet’s Loon has shifted to a different type of navigation system for its internet-beaming balloons. Rather than human-designed algorithms, they are using an artificial intelligence system deployed with Google’s AI over the last few years.
This is taken to another level with Reinforcement Learning (RL), as its navigation system for a fleet of balloons over Kenya, which is their first commercial service. This was started earlier this year. Also, Loon says this is the first use of an RL model in aerospace production. Finally, Reinforcement Learning (RL) learning can be applied to real-world issues.
With the help of AI, it can figure out the optimal route significantly faster than the previous navigation system. Not to mention but with more efficiency also. Loon balloons can travel the same or even greater distance than before and that too with less power. It has set a benchmark with a flight duration of 312 days, perhaps can be aloft for even longer with the AI system.
Before starting testing in Peru, Loon and Google AI used simulations to train the RL model through trial and error method. The team assessed a 39-day trial over the Pacific Ocean with the help of Human crafted system called StationSeeker.
Edward Johns at Imperial College London says AI control systems should be more widely used. “Powerful deep reinforcement learning comes up with solutions which are better than those from even the brightest human engineers,” he says. Now, let’s just hope they don’t replace us, lol.