Google to Beam Internet From Balloons

With the hopes of bringing Internet access to people in remote areas, Google are launching Internet balloons into the air to bring them a wireless connection.

Project Loon image

No one will argue that having Internet access is a privilege. Routers and installations all cost money, and if you’re looking for fibre-optic, or anything faster than the sub-standard speeds offered, then you’ll have to fork up the big bucks. 3G on our mobile devices is good too and often speedy but even that isn’t accessible when you don’t live near the signal. To combat this, Google are launching ‘Internet balloons’ to bring the Internet to people in remote areas, with the hopes of using these to aid in rescues and disaster-hit areas..

Called Project Loon, the ‘internet balloons’ being used aren’t some birthday party fodder, filled with helium, no, there’s some fancy tech at play here. The balloons that Google are employing are filled to the brim with highly pressurised gases that are lighter than air, allowing them to float easily. These super-pressured and highly sealed balloons are made out of plastic and will stay relatively the same size, regardless of the temperature’s that they’re travelling through.

The Internet components of the balloons are attached the the bottom. Each 15m (49.2ft) balloon will fly complete with radio antennas, a flight computer and an altitude control system, all powered using the renewable energy source of solar energy (each balloon has solar panels too) making these balloons eco-friendly as well as incredibly useful.

Google plans to launch fleets of these balloons into the sky at 20km (12 miles), using wind to glide them through the air, which they will do for around 100 days. Reportedly capable of 3G speeds, Google have recently tested out their project in New Zealand, where they attached special antennas to residents’ houses and got 50 participants to test it out. While access was apparently intermittent but functional, Google feel that it has proved successful in these early stages.

However, before Google get out of the “highly experimental” stage that Project Loon is currently in, some issues will need to be addressed. Some are concerned about aviation safety and whether or not these Internet balloons pose any risk to aircraft. though Google assure that the balloons fly around 10 kilometres higher than that of any plane. Challenges too will come in the form of the weather, and Google will have to be prepared to navigate the devices through the harshest and most windy conditions, but these can all be addressed with more testing.

While the project is a way off from going fully live, Google are set to launch balloons in Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Australia soon, so keep visiting walyou for any further developments.

Watch a video of Project Loon in action below.

Source(s) : BBC, Project Loon

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