Google’s parent company Alphabet (and its X Division, a.k.a. the “Moonshot Factory”) is moving forward with Project Loon, the bold plan to work with telecommunications companies to offer internet connectivity to remote areas, using solar-powered balloons floating in the stratosphere, and taking it from research project to commercial platform.
Previously, Project Loon was just a research project, but the company officially announced that it would become a commercial platform in the near future. Alphabet announced this week that it has hired ViaSat’s Tom Moore to serve as Project Loon’s general manager starting in mid-September. Moore will also become a vice president at X, the Alphabet company devoted to “moonshots” like self-driving cars and the Project Wing drone delivery service.
Project Loon will work by using a network of balloons capable of beaming internet connectivity down to people in remote areas like Sri Lanka or rural areas where wired internet isn’t yet available. The balloons are being tested somewhere in the Nevada desert.
Project Loon is part of the race to make the future of internet access a little weird. Facebook’s Aquila, a solar-powered drone that will also deliver internet access to remote areas is another frontrunner in the competition, with the victor receiving access to previously untapped markets from around the world.
Winning that race — and making sure these balloons don’t come crashing to earth, either literally or figuratively — will require experience. That’s why Moore has been brought on. “Under Mike’s scrappy, entrepreneurial leadership, Loon moved from science project to viable venture, and Tom’s valuable industry experience will help launch us into the commercial stage of this moonshot.”