Balloon-powered internet for everyoneBy Google
Project URL: www.google.com/loon/
Three billion people worldwide are online, but 60% of the global population still remains completely without internet. Increasing online access in developing countries would offer a huge boost to economic growth in those regions, as well as improving education.
Scientists and designers at Google have come up with an idea to deliver internet everywhere, getting it to offline areas via balloons.
Project Loon, a Google X Moonshot Factory initiative, is developing a system of large air balloons that can float in the stratosphere 20 km above the Earth. The balloons form a wireless network that people on the ground can connect to in much the same way as they would a cell tower, and each balloon can provide internet to a 40 km diameter area.
The Project Loon balloons are agile and capable of moving where needed, which will make them useful for restoring connectivity in disaster zones. They travel by harnessing the winds in the stratosphere, which are stratified – meaning they move in layers and at various speeds and in different directions. Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine which layer the balloons need to be in to travel in the correct direction.
Project Loon tested their balloons in a pilot in New Zealand in 2013, and the results of the test, as well as subsequent tests in New Zealand, California’s Central Valley and in north-east Brazil, are being used to improve the technology in preparation for the next stage of the project. Project Loon’s next goal is to establish a ring of uninterrupted connectivity at latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, to test the balloons’ ability to deliver continuous connectivity.
The team is always on the lookout for clever minds to help them with their pioneering work. Contact them to find out how you can be involved.
Image '#17 Responsiblity' courtesy of UN Women Asia & the Pacific.
Last updated: 25th of September, 2015