Last week Google launched Project Loon, an experiment to test if internet transmitted from free flying balloons could provide online access to buildings up to 40km away on the ground.
The balloons were set off from New Zealand and will fly 20kms above the earth’s surface with the aim of providing up to two thirds of the world’s most remote areas with internet access and mobile phone coverage. The balloons, if successful could also provide communications following natural disasters if infrastructure on the ground fails. By providing internet access to remote areas that are currently cut off from the online world, it’s hoped that education and health could be significantly improved.
The 49ft balloons are made of 3mm thin plastic and contain solar panels, radio antennas, a flight computer and altitude control systems and can provide speeds equivalent to 3G. The test area is being based around the Canterbury and Christchurch region of New Zealand, with 50 receivers set up to test the access provided from the balloons when they reach their 20km altitude.
Project Loon is at the very early stages of development, but if successful it could change the lives of millions living in some of the world’s most remote and inaccessible areas.