Google has come up with a plan to provide Internet access to everyone, everywhere, no matter how remote. With all of the transformations that have come thanks to the ‘Net, however, two of three people on the planet still don’t have access where they live. Google plans to change that.
Solving the problems of terrain and costs is what Google set out to do with Project Loon. Loon is a plan to set up Internet broadcasting points mounted on balloons that are build to stay at a specific altitude high in the stratosphere to act as a sort of low-low orbit satellite system to transmit and receive data to allow Internet access at an extremely affordable price, most of which will be to purchase the equipment to gain connectivity (a sort of souped up WiFi dish).
This isn’t just some pipe dream conjured up in Google Labs by some engineers with some free time and too many Twinkies (they’re coming back!). Google has actually built prototype balloons and launched them. And they worked.
The impetus for the idea was actually born from failures in other attempts to provide high-altitude access. Most of those systems required a fixed-position satellite or flying object, which is very difficult without going into space. Once you enter space, the range and other issues make it very hard to make affordable equipment for send/receive for several reasons.
Google’s idea was to put balloons into the stratosphere, but instead of having them attempt to stay in one spot, let them float freely in the winds at that altitude and go where they wish. The idea is that these units will be cheap enough that a lot of them could be made and launched so as to create a “ring” of sailing balloons in the stratosphere. What’s more, they would be easily track-able to allow easy avoidance by spacecraft and the like.
A very cool idea. Check out the videos: