Simon Bland in About


Google’s Project Loon To Release Internet Balloons Around Globe

Google’s Project Loon, a scheme designed to provide internet connection via lighter-than-air balloons, looks set to be on course to cover a section of the globe, according to the BBC. 

The news comes shortly after the announcement that three indonesian mobile networks will adopt the project to start testing its transmissions next year. Google aim to release enough balloons into the stratosphere to form a ring around a section of the globe, allowing a continuous data-service to all those below the balloons’ path.

Each balloon contains two radio transceivers to send and receive data streams which are hung below the balloon itself. In addition to a third back-up radio, the balloons also include a flight computer and GPS tracker, an altitude control system used to navigate the balloon towards winds and solar panels to provide power.

Each balloon is released approximately 20 kilometers into the stratosphere, where on-board software is used to navigate them up or down in order to move them into the correct location. Once in place, the balloons beam an internet connection down to local antennas which are located on the ground below.  

Google initially launched the idea for Project Loon in New Zealand during June 2013, where around 30 inflatable ‘envelopes’ were released which provided 3G-levels of data connection. However, the technology offered by Google’s solar balloons has since improved, with each now offering data speeds akin to 4G and 10 megabits per second to connected devices.

"In the early days, the balloons would last five or seven or 10 days,” Mike Cassidy, vice-president of Project Loon told the BBC. “Now we have had balloons that have lasted as long as 187 days.

"We've also improved the launch process. It used to take 14 people an hour or two to launch a balloon, now with an automated crane we can launch a balloon every 15 minutes with two or three people,” he added.

"We hope next year to build our first continuous ring around the world, and to have some sort of continuous coverage for certain regions. And if all goes well after, then after that we will start rolling out our first beta commercial customers," explained Cassidy.

Find out more on Project Loon’s website.

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