Although it may seem like the entire world has web access, approximately two-thirds of the world’s population does not have internet. With over 7 billion people in the world, only about 2.4 billion have web access. To fix this, Google has begun Project Loon. By launching solar powered helium-filled balloons carrying antennae, they hope to bring the technology of internet access to everyone on the planet. Still a work in progress, test balloons flying 20 kilometers above the ground were released Saturday, June 15 in New Zealand to test the technology in Christchurch and Canterbury.
No worry for frequent flyers, these balloons will be floating twice as high as airplanes at 60,000 feet above the earth in the stratosphere. “Loon Mission Control” will use software to control the altitude and movement of the balloons forming a balloon network.
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For the trial, approximately 60 homes had an antenna installed allowing them to connect to the balloons. The antenna will be used to transmit a signal bouncing back and forth between balloons transmitting an internet connection back to the antenna, allowing hundreds of people to connect to a balloon at once. Connectivity can be provided to about a 25 mile area of earth from each balloon. Speeds of this internet connection can be compared to that of 3G.
According to Google, “It is very early days, but we think a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, might be a way to provide affordable Internet access to rural, remote, and under-served areas down on earth below, or help after disasters, when existing communication infrastructure is affected.”
The balloons launched this June will be used to solve any initial problems, enhance the technology, and lead the next stages of the Project.
Project Loon photos courtesy of Google.