Google X, the guys behind Google Glass and Google’s Self Driven cars announced a few days ago a brand new project which aims to provide internet access to those in more remote and rural areas by the power of Balloons.
It sounds a little far fetched and if today was the beginning of April I’d be up there calling this an April Fool’s prank. It’s not April though, it is in fact the middle of June (though I wish someone would tell the weather that..) and Project Loon is a real thing.
Project Loon is currently rolling out to a select few located in New Zealand and hopes to bring an internet connection with speeds comparable to 3G networks. The way Project Loon works is that around 30 people have been given special antennas which connect to the balloons within a 20 km radius, as soon as a balloon is within that radius – boom.. balloon powered internet.
It seems a little silly what with balloons floating about the stratosphere but according to Google these balloons are intelligent. “Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network.”
The balloons work similar to weather balloons but work a little different and are made with a different, longer lasting material. Project Loon’s balloon envelopes are made from sheets of polyethylene plastic and stand fifteen meters wide by twelve meters tall when fully inflated. The balloons are also equipped with solar panels in order to keep the hardware running as well as charging the battery for use during the night. Below the solar panel is a box similar to that of a hot air balloon which carries all of the equipment to provide internet as well as to communicate with the other balloons in the stratosphere.
Currently rolling out in some parts of New Zealand Google are still looking for test pilots. You can register your interest here providing you’re located in New Zealand and have internet access to access this page… http://www.google.com/loon/where/
This is just one way that Google and chairman Eric Schmidt plan on getting internet access to the two thirds of the world who don’t have internet access. From the video above it makes you realise how the Internet could change the lives of those without it. It also makes us realise how much we take the Internet for granted when we’re having a bitch fit because we can’t connect to a World of Warcraft or Call of Duty server.