Google’s Project Loon is sort of insane. Then again, that’s kind of the point. And to make it actually work, the squadrons of balloons are taking a cue from nature.
Filling the sky with internet-balloons is one thing, but making the sky-blanket stable enough to keep the coverage going is another. Individual balloons can be gently moved into place by going up and down to catch airflows, but making the whole crew move as one clump is tougher.
For starters, Google is working with simulations where each Loon balloon behaves and “thinks” like a normal bird in a normal flock. It keeps an eye out for other floating neighbours and tries to space itself evenly between them.
But for the future, Google’s also toying with a much more complex solution where each balloon isn’t just looking out for itself, but also knows exactly what every other balloon is doing. That’s right: It’s a balloon hive-mind.