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Google's Project Loon Brings Internet Access Using Balloons

It's been a long time since Google was just a search company. However, while the company certainly has its work cut out for it in the ads, mobile, email, and browser markets (among others), the company is constantly coming up with new and interesting side projects. The latest is called Project Loon, which hopes to deliver internet via balloons.

 

Yes, you read that correctly. Google is hoping to deliver internet to the two-thirds of the world's population without access to the web using a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space. These balloons will travel around 20km above the Earth's surface where winds are generally steady and slow (between five and 20mph according to Google). Software algorithms will determine where balloons need to go and will then move the balloons into a layer of wind blowing in the correct direction. Working with the direction of the wind allows Project Loon to arrange the balloons to form a large communications network. Each balloon is capable of providing internet to an area measuring roughly 40km in diameter. Project Loon operates on the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands) and speeds will be comparable to 3G speeds.

Google hopes Project Loon will boost education, healthcare, small businesses, and more. The pilot programme is kicking off this month in New Zealand. Google offered no information on where the project will go after the pilot programme concludes, nor did it say how long the program will last for. In the meantime, you can check out the video below below for a little more on the reasoning behind Loon:

  • zeek the geek
    If these are solar powered along with that kind of range, devices will need some special air card to reach those. I just don't see this working out right without causing problems for AIR traffic and tons of other stuff. Wonder how much each Balloon costs and what the offered speeds are. 1-3mbps would be sufficient for most people and provide and decent loading times. Assuming it's "free or like $5 a month"
    Reply
  • teh_chem
    Funny, this sort of idea was posted by people after TPB (and other torrent services) were being shut out by ISP's--a pirate-hosted pirate network using low-lying satellites or balloons hosting a "free" internet (free of wiretapping and snooping).
    Reply
  • nukemaster
    Looks interesting.

    Wonder if they will be using ground stations to receive and transmit to the balloons. After all, I do not think many laptop wireless cards are powerful enough to send over those distances.
    Reply
  • ojas
    How is 20Km up the edge of space? That's still the stratosphere...
    Reply
  • digiex
    How long will the balloons stay afloat? Helium in the balloons will somehow be depleted over time.
    Reply
  • fimbulvinter
    Connect to the internet for free!*

    *we may hand over all your information to US Intel at any time.
    Reply
  • freedom4556
    10993379 said:
    How long will the balloons stay afloat? Helium in the balloons will somehow be depleted over time.

    It's not magic. It's called diffusion. The rubber or latex (even Mylar! but much slower) are somewhat porous to the tiny helium molecules. High concentration to low concentration over time, aided by a pressure differential. Did you sleep though middle school physical science?
    Reply
  • borisof007
    THIS PLAN IS LOONY

    Couldn't help it.
    Reply
  • altriss
    @ nukemaster

    Of course they will use base stations. Here the idea is to bring the signal to some local base station to spread the connexion to people.
    Wifi is designed for "home" use, not for more than 100m (and even 50m...)
    Here the idea is to avoid the use of massive and expansive cables, it could be an idea for hard-to-reach-areas, such as mountains or islands.
    However as many research project, it is probably a big dream which will provide some side-effect-technologies which will be used by consumers.
    I don't really expcet to see any ballon away from experimentations. Remember the last big balloon authorized over NewYork? Zeppelin proved us we cannot so surely rely on ballons.
    But the dream is big and it will definitly bring up great innovations!
    Reply
  • nukemaster
    10996799 said:
    over NewYork? Zeppelin proved us we cannot so surely rely on ballons.
    OR did it teach is
    A. Do not paint the damn thing in the most flammable paint ever created.
    2. Fly a helium balloon with hydrogen(not like they had much choice, but yeah)
    III. Stick with numbers or letters not both.
    Reply