The Project Loon balloons will hover 12.5 miles above the earth, higher up than where planes fly.

The balloons--powered by these solar panels--deliver Internet access (at 3G-like speeds) on open-frequency radio bands.

Preparing for launch.

Anyone on the ground who’s in a building equipped with a special antenna can log on.

Preparing for launch.

Preparing for launch.

That tiny white dot in the top left corner is one of Google’s balloons.

Google has already begun trials around Canterbury, New Zealand, where 50 testers in the area are trying to connect to 30 balloons.

Next up: pilot testing in areas that have the same latitude as New Zealand.

Every balloon uses a 2.4 ghz spectrum and covers a 40 km diameter on the ground below.

Every balloon uses a 2.4 ghz spectrum and covers a 40 km diameter on the ground below.

The balloons carry avionics software, flight sensors, and power systems.

They’re powered by solar panels.

The orange clamp weighs down the balloon so it doesn’t float off during preparations.

Six people are required to commandeer each balloon.

This custom antenna lets people receive Internet access from the Loon balloons.

2013-06-17

Co.Exist

Google Is Trying To Give The Entire World Internet Access With High-Flying Balloons

Project Loon will use these solar-powered giant devices hovering 12 miles above the ground to beam down Internet to places where they can’t lay cable.

How do you deliver Internet access to the entire planet? The world could continue on its current course, gradually laying down the infrastructure and leaving large pieces of the planet without access (or at least access outside of a cell phone). But that could take decades. Google revealed this month that global Internet access is one of the "moonshot" programs the company is working on at the Google[x] lab, which is also working on self-driving car technology.

Project Loon’s goal is to build a ring of solar-powered, high-pressure balloons that hover 12.5 miles above the ground—twice as high as airplanes fly. The balloons deliver Internet access (at 3G-like speeds) on open-frequency radio bands. Anyone on the ground who’s in a building equipped with a special antenna can log on.

Google explains the mechanics behind a balloon-powered Internet network on its blog:

…the idea we pursued was based on freeing the balloons and letting them sail freely on the winds. All we had to do was figure out how to control their path through the sky. We’ve now found a way to do that, using just wind and solar power: we can move the balloons up or down to catch the winds we want them to travel in. That solution then led us to a new problem: how to manage a fleet of balloons sailing around the world so that each balloon is in the area you want it right when you need it. We’re solving this with some complex algorithms and lots of computing power.

Google has already begun trials around Canterbury, New Zealand, where 50 testers in the area are trying to connect to 30 balloons. Next up: pilot testing in areas that have the same latitude as New Zealand.

Cynics may say that this is just an incredibly elaborate way for Google to grow its display ad business. But in the end, who cares? The Internet provides endless opportunities for education—and for places that are struck by disaster, it would be invaluable to have a back-up Internet system available for when the traditional lines go down.

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