In 2013, Google announced Project Loon – a plan to build and launch a network of balloons capable of delivering Internet connectivity worldwide. As a clear proponent of all things Internet-related, Google is committed to finding a way to get everyone online.
How does Project Loon work?
Project Loon can transmit a Wi-Fi signal to even the most remote locations on the planet. The Google team uses balloons that fly through the stratosphere, a layer of the atmosphere, which has varying levels of wind velocity to propel them.
Google has collected and studied vast amounts of wind data so it can accurately predict the travel trajectories for its balloons. The balloons are configured with specific algorithms that direct them to different wind currents in the stratosphere to take them where they need to go. So far, they have been launched over New Zealand, California and Brazil.
There are three main parts to the Project Loon balloons:
- The Envelope: This is the actual balloon part of the apparatus – the large, inflatable part that carries the balloon through the stratosphere to its destination. Each envelope is capable of lasting 100 days in the air until it needs to come down and be serviced with certain parts getting replaced.
- The Solar Panels: Solar panels are an easy, efficient way of maintaining the balloon’s self-sustainability. This small package on the balloon has solar panels on both sides to make sure at least one of them is always facing the sun to convert energy and fuel the device.
- The Electronics: Between the solar panels lies the heart of the balloon, the box of electronics. Equipped with radio antennas, a circuit board and lithium batteries, this part is responsible for transmitting and receiving Internet signals, controlling and powering the balloon, and communicating with other balloons and Project Loon engineers.
The communication network among all involved parties is important for the project’s success. Signals transmitted between balloons avoid collisions or overlap. Communication with Google engineers ensures the balloons stay on the right path, deliver Internet to their assigned locations and updates the home base on the functionality of the apparatus.
Project Loon uses LTE technology to provide Internet to its recipients. Working alongside telecommunications powerhouses, Project Loon can send an Internet signal with ease and efficiency through cell towers and already-existing networks.
What are some of the benefits of Project Loon?
Google wants to reach the millions of people who live without a consistent connection to the Internet. One of the main reasons Google wants to help spread the Internet to all corners of the world is to promote and enhance education. The Internet is a helpful tool for learning in today’s tech-savvy world and could help under-resourced areas access better educational methods.
Project Loon is also helpful during disaster relief efforts. With the introduction of status updates and safety check-ins during natural disasters, it’s important for victims to have Internet access. Floating far from the crisis in the stratosphere, Google balloons can help transmit Internet signals to those affected by the disaster and help deliver relief sooner.
The Future of Project Loon
Google launched 30 preliminary balloons in June of 2013 from New Zealand. The original test group has successfully expanded to reach more Internet users. Project Loon’s success so far bodes well for its plans to move forward and bring Internet to more areas.