Internet delivered via balloon – is this real? Yes it is.
Back in 2011, Google secretly started a new project – Project Loon– in attempt to bring wireless Internet to even the most remote of locations. The goal behind this project is to reach the estimated 5 billion people in the world without Internet access.
How it Works
Project Loon uses technologically-advanced balloons to carry transmitters across the globe and bring Internet to areas that don’t have access to it. The balloons float in the stratosphere to follow stratified wind currents in the atmospheric layer and create a coherent Internet network.
By working with several telecommunications companies across the globe, Project Loon shares a variety of LTE technology connections to provide Internet. Project Loon specialists install antennae in little spheres, about the size of a volleyball, to buildings in receiving areas. These miniature globes make it easier for nearby compatible devices to connect.
What it’s made of
Each balloon has three main components: the envelope, the solar panels and the electronics.
The expandable balloon part of the device is called an envelope. It’s made of polyethylene plastic and is created to spend about 100 days in the stratosphere. The reliability of this structure is crucial because it makes up the majority of the device and must withstand stratospheric conditions.
The balloon’s solar panels are an important part of the contraption because they power the device throughout it’s time in the atmosphere. The panels are made of a malleable plastic layer and light aluminum foundation. The solar panels offer a long-term solution for sustainable, renewable energy for the balloon transmitters.
Each balloon is equipped with its own electronics system. Within this structure, there are circuit boards, radio antennas and batteries for the solar panels. Software algorithms determine where the Loon balloons need to go, then direct balloons into wind moving in the right direction. This process creates the communications network.
What’s the point?
Data shows about 2 billion people have access to a web-enabled smartphone. That leaves about 5 billion people without a mobile Internet connection. Google and Facebook are two of the biggest supporters in the effort to provide Internet to the rest of the population.
Project Loon launched preliminary balloons in June 2013 to places like New Zealand, Northeast Brazil and Central Valley in California. This is just the beginning.