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Daily News Analysis

Google’s internet-providing balloons to be steered by AI

8th December, 2020 Science and Technology

Context: Google’s moon-shot project Loon’s internet-providing balloons will be controlled and steered by AI, not humans.

  • Developed by Loon and Google AI, the navigation system leverages deep reinforcement learning (RL) to navigate the stratospheric baloons.
    • RL is a type of machine learning technique that enables an agent to learn by trial and error in an interactive environment using feedback from its own actions and experiences.
  • The new technology is different from the conventional automated systems that have fixed procedures developed through traditional methods by engineers.
  • Loon claims that it is the world’s first deployment of reinforcement learning in a production aerospace system.

Testing the system

  • The team deployed the latest RL controllers named perciatelli44, in the stratosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
  • The RL system kept the balloons in range of the desired location more often and also consumed less power.
  • Using less power to steer the balloon leaves more power available to connect people to the internet, information, and other people.
  • Loon’s system is solar-powered, and the energy collected powers communication equipment while powering the navigation system.