Alphabet is shutting down its internet balloon company Project Loon. The announcement was made in January 2021, bringing to an end 9 years of development. The ambitious project aimed to fly thousands of balloons in the stratosphere to provide internet to remote and rural communities.
Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post ‘While we’ve found a number of willing partners along the way, we haven’t found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business. Developing radical new technology is inherently risky, but that doesn’t make breaking this news any easier. Today, I’m sad to share that Loon will be winding down’.
Using tennis court sized balloons, a solar powered payload, they could provide a communications system capable of delivering mobile internet coverage over an 11,000 square kilometre area.
Despite early successful demonstrations, such as providing connectivity following natural disasters in Puerto Rico in 2017 and Peru in 2019, a contract to provide telecoms to Kenya, and long duration flights (achieving 312 days), achieving a cost effective long-term business solution proved a step too far.
A sad end to an innovative project.