LOON - Automated Operations in the Stratosphere

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A recording of the webinar has been made available on ICAO TV and can be re-watched on demand.


Loon explores a new way of providing internet access to more people around the world by using a network of high-altitude unmanned free balloons. Loon's technology has the potential to expand existing internet connectivity options, especially for people in rural and remote areas, as well as in times of natural disaster or when traditional infrastructure is otherwise unavailable. To satisfy this need, Loon operates its automated stratospheric balloons flying above FL500, which serve as "floating cell towers",  and partners with telecommunications service providers to extend their network to unserved communities. 


CAAs, ministries of Transportation, ANSPs/ATCs, aviation design/production firms, technology/innovation ministries and RPAS related industry.


Wajahat Beg, Head of Overflights, Loon

Nick Kholi, Head of Operations Strategy, Loon


Zohaib Mian, Head of Systems Engineering, Loon

Léonard Bouygues, Head of Aviation Strategy, Loon



Wajahat Beg

Wajahat Beg is Head of Overflights for Loon, where he leads the initiatives on Overflights and Landing permissions with countries in order to get access to air spaces needed for service provision and transition through their FIRs.
Loon is working to bring internet access to unserved and underserved communities around the world via a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space. Loon is a subsidiary of Alphabet.
Wajahat started his career in aerospace where he was a design engineer on the Airbus A380 and then as project engineer for the Bombardier CL415 before transitioning into aviation. He worked in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as Manager, Technology and Operational Procedures and until earlier this year, worked for ICAO as Programme Implementation Officer for USOAP.
Wajahat completed his Mechanical ENgineering degree from Concordia University in Montreal and is currently completing his Masters in Public Administration (MPA) at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC).
Apart from his civilian career, Wajahat also served the Canadian Armed forces for 23 years in the reserves capacity and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel commanding a light infantry battalion. Over his time in the forces, he actively participated in both domestic and expeditionary operations.
Wajahat has a huge passion for music, being a singer from the college days, and is a health fanatic.

Nick Kholi
Nick is affectionately dubbed Loon’s “Global Balloon Concierge” and “stratospheric ambassador” where he heads operations strategy for the teams responsible in building, launching, flying, landing, and recovering Loon’s balloons worldwide in their mission to expand the internet!
Having been with the program since its inception and as featured in one of Loon’s #AskAway YouTube videos ; Nick's day-to-day can vary wildly depending on where in the world Loon balloons are flying. From advancing the next generation of wireless technology prototypes or air vehicles to supervising an airborne network of floating cell towers in the sky, Nick brings his unique and broad experience to Loon’s mission of connecting the unconnected.
Prior to Loon and Alphabet where Nick was a part of Google and X, their semi-secret R&D lab—Nick served as the team leader for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Mountaineering Team, a nonprofit affiliated with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and as a Level-1 trauma emergency room technician. He has extensive experience in disaster relief, humanitarian work, and international medical aid deployments. Nick is an avid private pilot and grew up constantly surrounded by world class mentors in the fields of aviation and aerospace.

Dr. Zohaib Mian
Dr. Zohaib Mian is the Head of Systems Engineering and a Technical Program Manager at Loon (an Alphabet company). Dr. Mian’s recognized expertise lies in system-of-systems architectural design of advanced aircraft, autonomous systems, airspace traffic management, machine intelligence, and multi-disciplinary stochastic design methodologies. Previously, Dr. Mian was a senior autonomous systems architect at Bosch, spearheading systems design efforts for joint Bosch-Mercedes autonomous vehicles project. Prior to that, Dr.
Mian was a staff research engineer and technical project lead for Autonomous and Intelligent Systems and Human Centered Robotics initiatives at United Technologies Research Center, where he led research into collaborative autonomy, mission/path-planning, GPS-denied navigation, and development of advanced and intelligent robotic platforms. Dr. Mian was also the principal architect and manager for UTRC’s autonomy experimentation and test laboratories. He also designed the purpose-built advanced autonomy and flight-testing lab at UTRC. Dr. Mian has also led the research as co-PI on Army Research Laboratory – Vehicle Technology Directorate’s Micro Autonomous Systems and Technologies (MAST) project at Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL), Georgia Tech.
Dr. Mian received a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering, with a minor in Manufacturing Engineering, from Middle East Technical University in Turkey, and M.S. and PhD degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech. Dr. Mian is a private pilot, an avid mixed martial artist, and enjoys designing, building, and racing cars.

Léonard Bouygues
Leonard is currently Head of Aviation Strategy at Loon. Loon is a network of high-altitude balloons that provide telecommunications access to unserved and underserved populations. It is the first large-scale automated fleet of unmanned vehicles and has already surpassed one million flight hours.
In this role, Leonard is responsible for the development of innovative aviation concepts. He currently leads industry players in the development of the “Collaborative Traffic Management in the Stratosphere” CONOPs. He is also a key contributing author of the initial paper that he presented at Drone Enable 2019. Additionally, Leonard is currently working in partnerships with NASA, MITRE, academia and research organisations to evolve safety frameworks within FAA’s safety continuum, in particular for in-time safety management, risk budgeting and human automation teaming for the supervision of large autonomous fleets.
After joining Loon in 2015, Leonard led Loon’s Flight Operations from 2017-2019. In this position, he built and managed the company’s Operation Control Center, enabling Loon to supervise a fleet of hundreds of autonomous vehicles. In this effort, Leonard’s team also developed technology for live risk computation of Loon operations.
Leonard started at Google’s European headquarters as an Analytical Lead, before joining the Mountain View office to work as a Product Lead in the advertising division. Leonard holds a Master’s in Aeronautical Engineering from Imperial College London, a M.Sc. in Management of Technology and Innovation form MIT, and a M.Sc. in management from HEC Paris.


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