In continuing with the idea that “Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction”, the secret labs of Google[x] have launched their latest Moonshot: Project Loon. Two out of three people on Earth do not have internet access, this is an effort to change that. Project Loon consists of balloons that get sent into the stratosphere as long-range antennas. They create a mesh network to transmit internet to one-another from a base signal and can bring broadband to wide areas. Users use a special internet receiver to obtain a signal from the balloons.
The idea is to get broadband (3G equivalent or faster) internet access to “rural, remote, and underserved areas”. In the stratosphere at 20 km, there’s layers of winds that go in various directions. The balloons are not tethered like you may think (as I had originally thought), Loon Mission Control uses complex algorithms to raise them up or down to catch these stratosphere winds and move them where they’re needed. The balloons are entirely solar powered and filter out all interference to specifically receive Project Loon data only in order to transmit high bandwidth over long distances. Since the balloons are on the edge of space and soar twice as high as airliners and the weather, they are free to move about without bringing down planes flying at 450 mph or getting zapped by lightning.
Project Loon just launched its maiden test flight of 30 balloons over New Zealand. 50 receivers will be on the ground to test the concept. This is a first run, so there will be inevitable tweaking and changes to make Project Loon less, well, loony and more precise. Check the latest on the official Project Loon G+ page as well as its dedicated homepage.
Source: Google Blog