Google have never been a company to shy away from a challenge. With Project Loon, the tech giant is having a crack at connecting millions of people around the world to the Internet via balloons drifting around the stratosphere.
According to Google, two-thirds of the world’s population doesn’t yet have Internet access. Project Loon, which has been in development for about four years, aims to provide a cheaper alternative to expensive Internet infrastructure in remote or rural areas and also to provide much needed access to information, such as education, medical knowledge, and weather forecasts.
Google has just released a video showing how the LTE-enabled balloons can travel approximately 20 km above the earth’s surface, and provide connectivity to a ground area of around 40 km in diameter. The balloons can float through the sky for more than one hundred days and provide Internet speeds of 15 MB per second to a phone or other device.
How do they work?
Project Loon balloons do not hover in a stationary position above an area requiring Internet, as one might expect. This would require far too much energy to work against the wind. Instead, each balloon is part of a larger fleet of balloons that work with the wind, so that when one balloon leaves a location, another replaces it, providing continuous Internet connection.
To steer its thousands of balloons across the globe, Project Loon will make use of the different layers of wind in the stratosphere, which each vary in speed and direction. By moving the balloon up and down, the direction of the balloon is changed.
The balloons are equipped with a form of wireless communications technology called LTE, short for Long Term Evolution. To use LTE, Project Loon partners with local telecommunications companies around the world.