Google recently announced a new project called Project Loon, being developed at Google X Labs. Project Loon will bring Internet access to remote places through the use of hot air balloons. Project Loon utilizes large helium balloons that are made of polyethelene film. It measures at around 15 meters in diameter.
The balloons will be flying at an altitude of about 20 kilometers above the ground, which is twice as high as commercial airplanes. The balloons would be powered by solar energy and relies on winds in the stratosphere to move around. Google calls this a “network in the sky.” The balloons would be able to communicate with other balloons and antennas on the ground.
The balloons would be able to provide Internet connectivity at 3G network speeds. After the balloons are in the sky, Google would be able to control the network and direct the balloons to ground in specific areas so that they can be collected and reused.
This is not just a concept. Google is already piloting a test for Project Loon in the Tekapo area of New Zealand?s South Island. Around thirty balloons were launched as part of the pilot test. The balloons would give Internet access to 50 pilot testers from Canterbury and Christchurch. The testers are supposed to report on the connection quality. Google will collect information from pilot testers and use the data to improve the technology. Google invited people in New Zealand that want to participate in the project to sign up on their website.
The reason why Google chose New Zealand is because there was an earthquake there in 2011. Two hundred people tragically passed away as a result. The area was also disconnected from the Internet. Other areas that suffer from natural disasters may be able to benefit from Project Loon also.
Although Project Loon is still in the early phases, Google is expecting there to be a wider adoption in the future for education, medicine, and agriculture.