Google Unveils Project Loon: Internet Powered By Balloons

project-loonGoogle has just made its latest project from its Google X Labs official, and just like other projects from the lab, this one is revolutionary.

This time, Google plans to connect the entire world to the Internet using balloons, a technology used as a means of communication since at least the 19th century. The project has been under development for 18 months.

The company’s blog describes Project Loon this way:

We believe that it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds that provide Internet access to the earth below. It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster.

The first test of Project Loon is underway with a pilot program in New Zealand with 50 households volunteering and  30 balloons already being launched.

Google says that two out three people on the globe don’t have access to affordable broadband, and they hope to solve this with the project. Another place where this could come in handy is maintaining communications following natural disasters.

Google hopes that this floating network of balloons will one day connect remote, rural and underserved areas. So if you live in a big city or town, don’t expect this to come to you.

Google is looking for partners so that it can bring Project Loon to Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Australia.

How Project Loon works

The balloons are launched in consultation with the aviation authorities in a country.

Each balloon is nearly 15 meters in diameter and electronic equipments hang underneath each, which include radio antennae, a flight computer, an altitude control system and solar panels. Google says each balloon is able to stay aloft for about 100 days and provide connectivity to an area stretching 40 km in diameter below them.

The balloons float at a height of 20 kilometers above the surface of the earth, way above what planes travel.

The winds in the stratosphere travel in layers and in different directions. Thus the balloons can be controlled to move from one level to the below level and thus steer it.

Ground stations connect to the local Internet infrastructure and beam signals to the balloons. The balloons are able to communicate with each other, forming a network in the sky.

Testers connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their house which can send and receive signals from balloons passing overhead.

Check out Google’s detailed explanation of how Project Loon works in the video below:

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