It was an awesome stunt that only the FAA could allow.
It was an amazing stunt. With the help of skydivers in wingsuits, bikers, mountain climbers, 25 cameras and even a zeppelin blimp, Google managed to deliver a "package" from 4,000 feet above San Francisco to the Moscone stage here on Earth during Google I/O 2012. The video footage was streamed live via Google Hangout with the help of Google Glass... the real star of the demonstration.
"This can go wrong in 500 different ways, so tell me: who wants to see a demo of Glass?" Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin said just before the demo, pumping up attendees. Obviously nothing went wrong save for Brin supposedly receiving the wrong set of Google Glass specs.
TechCrunch has a rundown on how Google pulled off the stunt. Despite the physical risk to the athletes, the company needed to pull a few strings in order to make the demo happen. One of them was to negotiate with FAA offices in Oakland, San Jose and Washington so that the zeppelin could release its cargo.
According to the report, the airspace 4,000 above San Francisco is classified as Class B airspace. That means pilots need permission to fly in that zone, yet clearance is easy and routinely obtained by simply talking to air traffic control. The problem was that zeppelin airships are not allowed to open a door during flight. To make the Google demonstration happen, the FAA had to add new rules to the operating manual for zeppelins so the skydivers could open the door and take a flying leap.
In addition to the additional rules, the FAA issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) #06/083 with a warning that a parachute jumping exercise could be taking place over San Francisco on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning. Google claims the jumps were the first ever legal zeppelin skydives using wingsuits in the United States.
Another big hurdle was actually getting the Google Glass specs to connect 4,000 feet above the skyline, and stay connected all the way down. The team tried several approaches before the demo, testing different equipment including using an actual wok with a MiFi 4G LTE hotspot mounted on it. Currently Google isn't offering any information on what the team actually used to communicate the Google Glass feed with Google Hangout.
For the whole scoop, TechCrunch has the behind-the-scenes story here.