By B.L. Ochman
The majority of the world still is not connected to the Internet and Google is setting out – by balloon – to change that.
Google has launched (literally) Project Loon because two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.
Project Loon starts this month with an experimental pilot in New Zealand, with the launch of 30 balloons which will beam Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The experience of these pilot testers will be used to refine the technology and shape the next phase of Project Loon.
Why balloons? “It’s faster, easier, and cheaper to give everyone the Internet” if you use balloons. “That’s why we’re giving it a try,” says the young narrator of the video introducing Project Loon.
Captain of Moonshots
And, among the most remarkable things about the project is that the video about its launch includes narration by a person identified as “Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots, Google.” Yes, that’s right. Google has a Captain of Moonshots.
Each Project Loon balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter at speeds comparable to 3G. For balloon-to-balloon and balloon-to-ground communications, the balloons use antennas equipped with specialized radio frequency technology. Project Loon currently uses ISM bands (specifically 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands) that are available for anyone to use.
Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. They are carried around the Earth by winds and they can be steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired direction. People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth.
Thank you Google! You never cease to amaze me. Rock on!