Published on June 18th, 2013 | by No Artificial
Google Launches Its Project Loon Wi-Fi Balloons
Google Will Use High-Flying Balloons to Provide Internet to the Hinterlands
Google’s taking wireless Internet to the next level. The tech company announced on Saturday that it plans to release 30 wi-fi test balloons into the stratosphere to deliver Internet connections.
Known as Project Loon, the helium-filled balloons will be 12 miles (20km) into space.
It will begin on New Zealand’s South Island this month and will hopefully, according to Google, “connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.”
The experimental program was hatched by engineers at the company’s top-secret Google X laboratory in Silicon Valley, California, which developed driverless cars and Google Glass.
“The idea may sound a bit crazy – and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon – but there’s solid science behind it,” the company claimed.
These initiatives also help Google increase its expansive reach into the lives of global Internet users, amid a progressing discussion over Internet privacy.
The new technology will be trialled in Australia next year, possibly in Tasmania.
It is still unclear if the new technology will complement the National Broadband Network, which was developed in part to ensure the whole nation has fast web access.
Google X director of product management Mike Cassidy stated the aim is to provide much more affordable Internet connections around the world.
“We are focused on an enormous problem, and we don’t think we have the one solution today,” he said. “But we think we can help and start having a discussion on how to get five billion people in remote areas” connected to the internet.
The high-pressure balloons, hovering over New Zealand, carry antennas, radios, solar-power panels and navigation equipment. They are motor-less and their travel generally depends on wind patterns. They can transmit the Internet within a 25 miles (40 kilometers) diameter at speeds comparable to 3G service.
Richard DeVaul, chief technical architect at Google X, explained the balloon wireless network is “green technology“.
“All of the energy is renewable. The balloons won’t be visible from the air and they won’t interfere with aeroplane systems. We’ve gone out of our way to make sure they’re highly visible and easy to track”, he explained.
If all goes to plan, about 60 people who’ve had a special antenna fixed on their homes for the trial should be able to connect to the balloon Wi-Fi network. The wireless signal will bounce from balloon to balloon, then to the Internet back on Earth. Hundreds of people will be able to connect to one balloon at a time.
According to the Project Loon website, the new Internet connectivity technology is still being tested to see if it’s practical and what difficulties would have to be overcome to make it more widely accessible.
Learn more about Project Loon at Google