Today, Project Loon turns two! It’s been quite a journey—16 million kilometers to be precise—since we first connected sheep farmer Charles Nimmo to the Internet during our 2013 pilot test.
Our earliest tests started back in 2011, using a weather balloon and basic, off-the-shelf radio parts. These tests showed that balloon-powered Internet might just work, but the team knew that weather balloons wouldn't be a long term solution since they aren’t built to last in the stratosphere. So, our balloon enthusiasts got down to work and asked: if we wanted to bring balloon powered Internet to the whole world, what type of balloon would we need to build?
We started by building much, much bigger balloons able to hold equipment capable of beaming connectivity 20 km down to the earth below—starting with our modestly larger early Albatross design, all the way up to our 141-foot-long Hawk and beyond. To ensure there’s always a balloon overhead to provide connection, we needed to build a system that can manufacture these balloons at scale, leading to our latest balloon design, the Nighthawk, the likes of which has never been seen before.
Take a peek into our archives to see how our balloons have developed over time to deal with these challenges, from our very first ‘prehistoric’ balloons all the way to our latest flock design.