It's been interesting watching Google's Project Loon progress, and the latest test run for the balloon-based internet service is perhaps the most impressive. A single balloon recently launched from New Zealand and traveled some 5,500 miles (9,000 kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean to Chile where Google started putting it through its paces. Once in the South American country's airspace, Project Loon members issued a command for the balloon to change altitude and hit a wind pattern that caused it to cut its 80 KPH (almost 50 MPH) speed by a quarter. That gave the ground team a chance to use smartphones to test the airborne LTE network's mettle.
Next up was an eight-day journey to Australia for more trials; this time it cruised at a leisurely 140 KPH (roughly 87 MPH). In the Land Down Under, the Project Loon team adjusted the balloon's altitude to hit different winds and even reverse its flight path to align the craft directly with the test location. These tests are extensions of what the search giant's been doing as recently as early March, and Google says that the results are giving a better idea of how the service will work at scale. So far, Loon's provided two hours of connectivity in places where it might not otherwise occur -- a far cry from what's needed for a true, wireless online-infrastructure, sure, but it's a start.