Skip to main content

The FAA Changed Rules for Google's Project Glass Stunt

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.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • house70
    "In addition to the additional rules,"...
    The additions keep adding up...

    Glasses are cool. You got your stunt, now get the glasses to the masses.
    Next project: eyeball implants (a-la- eyePhone).
  • And another headline for google :)
  • master_chen
    Welcome back, mister J.C. Denton...we were expecting you...
  • Actually they had a behind the scenes jump on Thursday where they showed the handheld dishes for the jumpers that were adjusted by the dish operates as the jumpers fell.
  • Honestly, super boring. Sky diving has been recorded before... *yawn*. Practical uses for the every day user is prob a better angle. For instance, can I wear them while being pulled over by a cop? Can I wear them in Illinois in plain view of officers performing law enforcement duties? Or am I likely to have them confiscated, because I happen to be strolling along wearing Google Glass and police are responding to a situation nearby?
    How many auto accidents will be caused by drivers who are distracted with these unnecessary glasses? How many pedestrians & bike riders will be injured or killed?
  • JeTJL
    Now that is a segway for a product intro, not some stupid, "Oh... And One more thing..."
  • Everyone on the Jump got a healthy dose of radiation from the satellite dish focused on them. Also, if I ever become a bazillionaire too, I want my own Zeppelin.
  • eyeball implants (a-la- eyePhone).
    nice futurama reference
  • klavis
    That is a neat stunt, however it was a crap demo, it showed nothing new. It emulated a head mounted camera which streamed video, it didn't show anything unique to the product they are trying to hype. I would have been impressed if the video showed the HUD with some sort of information such as the weather conditions. They mentioned they had to check the wind. That would have been a perfect time for them to show off the capabilities of this product. As a good demo it failed, as a stunt it succeeded.
  • sa1nt
    Sergey Brin as close to iron man as it gets in real life.