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Video: Google Project Loon Balloons Connect Remote Areas to the Web


Living in a major metropolitan area, I’ve come to take my broadband Internet access for granted. However, that’s a luxury that is not afforded to a solid two-thirds of the world. Project Loon has been launched (no pun intended) by Google to provide high-speed Internet to more remote areas on the planet. And they’re doing it with balloons.

You could say that the name “Project Loon” is a play on the word “balloon” and perhaps something to do with being a little crazy, but the idea here is that they launch these massive balloons about 12.4 miles above the Earth’s surface. At this altitude, they can avoid most adverse weather or airplane traffic. The balloons, which measure 49 x 39 feet when inflated, can withstand abuse for over 100 days before they need to be recovered. Each balloon can cover an area on the ground of about 25 miles in diameter, providing it with speeds “comparable to 3G.”

The initial test has them in New Zealand where they launched the first Project Loon Internet-providing balloon on June 14 and they plan on launching a total of 30 more in the next few days. The balloon itself contains a myriad of electronics — radio antennas, GPS, flight sensors, weather monitoring instruments, etc. — and there’s an array of solar panels for 100 watts of power. By using the wind for travel, the balloons are pretty green.

The Internet signal isn’t sent back via Wi-Fi. Instead, the balloons connect to the ground and then the service is broadcast via a radio frequency over ISM bands. Homes in the area then need to install special antenna to nab the signal and decrypt the data.

This may seem wacky, but it could prove to be a fascinating solution for areas where conventional broadband just isn’t feasible or cost-effective. They also say it’s a good way to get connected following a natural disaster.

[Source]

About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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  • Carl Kuntz

    Nice technical attempt to provide services to unserviced ares. Won’t really work in long run. Ther’ll be too many gaps in service as balloons go down beforte replacements can be launched. Takes awhile to get a balloon to altitude.

    The US Army had a program using earlier versions of the type of balloons pictured
    way back in the late 1950’s – early 1960’s. Balloons were launced from multiple locations in US and overseas with instruments designed to record and then then transmit data to ground stations. Purpose: detect nuclear attmospheric explosion noise. Directed at Russian, and Chinese, or any other nuclear testing.

    From a base in the Phllipines – many balloons – literally hundreds over a couple of years – were launched to float , for up to 24 hours – in the atmospheric duct where noise tends to reflect back and forth depending on temperature, etc. Others were launched from WSMR, New Mexico, Puerto Rico and other sites.
    Inevitally, when the instruments fell to earth – in many parts of Asia – particularly China, there were propaganda opportunities. Especially for the Chinese. They claimed these were biolgical or chemical warfare weapons unleashed by the USA. They knew they were only passive reciever/transmiiter’s of sound data., but nonetheless they used them to their advantage.