Google's Project Loon - Internet for everyone
Saturday 30 November 2013

Google's Project Loon - Internet for everyone

Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 20 km (12 mi) to create an aerial wireless network with up to 3G-like speeds. Because of the project's seemingly outlandish mission goals, Google dubbed it "Project Loon". In 2008, Google had considered contracting with or acquiring Space Data Corp., a company that sends balloons carrying small base stations about 20 miles (32 km) up in the air for providing connectivity to truckers and oil companies in the southern United States, but didn't do so.

Unofficial development on the project began in 2011 under incubation in Google X with a series of trial runs in California& 39;s Central Valley. The project was officially announced as a Google project on 14 June 2013.

On 16 June 2013, Google planned to make it official by beginning a pilot experiment in New Zealand where about 30 balloons were launched in coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority from the Tekapo area in the South Island. About 50 local users in and around Christchurch and the Canterbury Region tested connections to the aerial network using special antennas. After this initial trial, Google plans on sending up 300 balloons around the world at the 40th parallel south that would provide coverage to New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Argentina.

Now talking on how these balloons work and coordinate, the balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global Internet. The system aims to bring Internet access to remote and rural areas poorly served by existing provisions, and to improve communication during natural disasters to affected regions.

  People behind this achievement are Rich DeVaul, chief technical architect, who is also an expert on wearable technology; Mike Cassidy, a project leader; and Cyrus Behroozi, a networking and telecommunication lead.

Reception of this might seem a bit difficult, even then it is considered as a great project till date to improve the internet usage in remote and rural areas. Bill Gates criticized Project Loon, stating that: "When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you. When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that."

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, delivered a speech at the launch event in Christchurch saying that the Internet is important for New Zealand to help it globally distribute what it produces in a low cost way, particularly as the next 4 billion come online. The PM also acknowledged the potential of Loon for disaster recovery, particularly relevant given the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.

Google hopes to eventually have thousands of balloons flying in the stratosphere. So far seems like a good project which is very useful for people around the globe from remote and rural areas.