In June 2013, Google sent thirty high-altitude balloons to the stratosphere above New Zealand, where a small group of pilot testers had the opportunity to try the world’s first balloon-assisted internet connection. The aim of Project Loon is to connect the world’s remote areas to the internet using high-altitude balloons. These balloons provide cost-effective, inexpensive and reliable connectivity to the 5 or 6 billion people who don’t have internet connection, said Rich DeVaul, the Chief Technical Architect of the project.
These solar powered balloons are sent 20km up in the sky to create a network that one day shall provide internet for the entire world. At this altitude, about twice as high as commercial aircraft fly, balloons travel with the winds and can be steered by moving them up or down to catch the wind blowing to the desired direction. They can be arranged in specific shapes and patterns. When one balloon leaves, another one is set to take its place. The balloons communicate with specialised internet antennas on the ground, and each balloon talks to its neighbours. Some balloons communicate with the the ground station which is connected to the local internet provider.
Are you interested and wish to be a pilot tester? For now, you need to live in New Zealand to do this. But soon enough, if everything goes to Google’s plan, the balloons will circulate in the southern hemisphere of the Earth, passing above South America and Africa. And a bit later, they will float above every one of us.