Google's Project Loon

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Google's Project Loon 29 Aug2014

Google's Project Loon

Hello there! Amber Summers here. I stumbled across an amazing project that Google are doing & I’d really like to share it with you!

I’m communicating with you right now thanks to a magical place called ‘the internet’. Doesn’t sound so clever, does it? Did you know that only a third of the world’s population have the opportunity or ability to access the internet? It’s hard to believe that something so common, even essential in our day-to-day lives could be absent for 2 out of 3 people around the world. The internet is a limitless, ever-expanding cache of human knowledge, so it seems like such a shame that not everyone can share in it.

Some thoughtful people at Google saw a deficit, but they also saw an opportunity. Project Loon was born! The concept was this: put a heap of balloons up in the stratosphere & give the people internet. It sounds crazy, & it was! But wow - what a romantic notion: internet being beamed down to the world from balloons floating on the edge of space.

That concept is now a reality. In mid-2013, Google launched many test craft from the Canterbury region in New Zealand. They beamed down 3G internet to a small group of pilot testers. The pilot is continuing through 2014, being tested over a wider area. The ultimate goal is to create a ring of balloons surrounding the earth providing uninterrupted coverage to people below.

Each balloon is bigger than you might think. They are like weather balloons - around 15 metres in diameter & 12 metres tall. They are equipped with a radio antenna, GPS, radio transceivers, weather monitoring system, lithium ion batteries & solar panels. The electronics filter out any other signals & only communicate with internet providers on the ground & other Loons, effectively creating a network. Up in the stratosphere, there are layers of wind. By sending the balloons higher or lower, they can be sent in certain directions & even be grouped together which gives faster internet with better coverage back here on earth.

Of course, what goes up, must come down. Loon Mission Control can pinpoint exactly where they want the balloons to land so their parts can be re-used & recycled. Balloons that last 100 or more days in the stratosphere are being developed right now.

Imagine the implications of this if it is rolled-out successfully. Remote children could have school come to them in their homes. What about isolated people being able to see a doctor at the click of a button? The possibilities are endless, & I’m really excited to watch what happens as the testing phase continues.

So, where are these Loons right now? Believe it or not, they've recently been sighted over New Zealand's south island, Brazil, off the New South Wales central coast & even closer to home, near Goondiwindi. If you’d like, you can track the Loons yourself! You can find them on Flightradar24 floating above the other aircraft & track updates on Google+ or their website.

For more information on Project Loon, please visit www.google.com/loon.


- Amber

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