Google’s Project Loon: Balloon powered Internet

What is Google’s project loon ?

 


Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access.

Balloon powered Internet: Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.

Then, How it exactly works ?

  • Project Loon balloons travel approximately 20 km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere.
  • Winds in the stratosphere are stratified, and each layer of wind varies in speed and direction.
  • Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction.
  • By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network.

How is the Loon designed ?

  • The inflatable part of the balloon is called a balloon envelope.
  • Each balloon’s electronics are powered by an array of solar panels.
  • The panels produce approximately 100 Watts of power in full sun, which is enough to keep Loon’s electronics running.
  • Project Loon is able to power itself using entirely renewable energy sources.

 


 

How does it connect?

  • Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter using a wireless communications technology called Long-Term Evolution (LTE).
  • With this LTE, people will be able to access the Internet everywhere directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices.
  • Balloons relay wireless traffic from cell phones and other devices back to the global Internet using high-speed links.

Very quickly then, what has Loon upto all this while?

  • Project Loon began in June 2013 with an experimental pilot in New Zealand.
  • The results of the pilot test as well as subsequent tests in New Zealand, California’s Central Valley and in Northeast Brazil were analysed.
  • They were used to improve the technology in preparation for the next stages of the project.

What are Superpressure balloons?

  • Superpressure balloons are made out of tightly sealed plastic capable of containing highly pressurised lighter-than-air gases.
  • The concept was first developed for the US Air Force in the 1950s using a stretched polyester film called Mylar.
  • More recently, Nasa has experimented with the technology and suggested superpressure balloons could one day be deployed into Mars’s atmosphere.

What’s the way forward for Google balloons?

  • Google suggests that Project Loon would be a cheaper solution than installing fibre optic cables or building mobile phone masts across all of Indonesia’s islands, which contain jungles and mountains.
  • Google is in talks with the Indian government to deploy this wind power project here. The company hopes to begin production by 2016.

Published with inputs from Arun
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