Google’s Loon Balloon Project
The Project Loon is Google’s unique attempt to reach out to people everywhere. The most rural, poor and remote areas of the world need to be connected and integrated. This was the aim. Though initially it looked impossible and bizarre, the tech-giant ultimately made it achievable.
Project Loon: It is a venture that aims to bring internet access to each and every individual. This project uses high altitude balloons flying through the Startosphere, to create an internet network. The balloons are floated at an average height of approximately 32 kms to create an aerial high speed wireless network. The balloons automatically adjust their altitude in order to remain afloat by the appropriate wind speed and direction. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided all the necessary data for the same.
Initial Trial Runs: In 2011 during the unofficial development of the Project Loon, Google conducted quite a few trial runs in California’s Central Valley. It was officially announced in June 2013. After that the project started major experiments in New Zealand. They launched around 30 balloons in the South Islands. After the success of the initial trials, Google decided to send up to 300 balloons up in the Stratosphere to drift around the world near 40 degrees south latitude. These balloons would cover a huge area including New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Argentina. After the successful tests in New Zealand and the U.S, in June 2014 Google conducted the trail runs near the Equator from Brazil.
Technology of the Balloons: The balloons are made up of 0.0076 mm polyethylene plastic. They are called super pressure balloons (where the volume of the balloon is kept constant during the change in temperature of the contained gas, which allows the balloon to be stable for a longer period of time) which are filled with helium. When fully inflated, they are 39 ft tall. A small box with each balloon’s electronic equipment floats along. It contains circuit boards, radio antennas, Ubiquiti Networks Rocket M2 and batteries to store solar power. Arrays of solar panels supply power to the balloon’s electronics. During the day it produces 100 watts of power to charge the batteries for the use at night. The balloons usually have a life of 55 days and have already travelled almost 2 million kilometers, according to Google X, the secretive lab run by Google. The balloons are fabricated by Raven Industries, United States.
Latest Development: By November 2014, Project Loon, Google’s high-speed balloons gained the ability to launch up to 20 balloons per day. This was possible because the improved and advanced autofill equipment reduced the time to fill the balloons by less than 5 minutes. The balloons can now last up to ten times longer in the stratosphere, than they did in 2013. Quite a few of them lasted over 100 days – with 130 days being a record. By this year Google aims to provide internet connection with 22 MB/s speed in large and remote areas of the Southern Hemisphere.
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