Google’s Project Loon to provide worldwide internet coverage via space balloons

With two-thirds of the world’s population unable to access their online search engine, Google has designed a network of balloons that can provide high-speed internet to remote areas without internet coverage.

Google Project Loon

The Project Loon route around the Southern Hemisphere

The idea involves telecommunications companies beaming 4G LTE wireless signals to the balloons, which will communicate with each other to pass the signal along. Each balloon will then act as a cell tower, relaying the signal to any LTE-enabled devices within an area around 40 kilometres (25 miles) in diameter below it.

The project has already been successfully tested in New Zealand, and now three of Indonesia’s mobile networks intend to start testing too. Google says the project is now on course to create a ring of uninterrupted connectivity in the Southern Hemisphere next year.

How Project Loon works

Each balloon has a small box containing a circuit board that controls the electronics, radio antennas for sending and receiving signals, and a battery that is charged by an array of solar panels for day and night use.

The network of balloons will circle the Earth in the stratosphere on the edge of space. They will be about 20 kilometres (12 miles) up, high enough to avoid bad weather, wildlife and aeroplanes.

As the stratosphere features layers of wind that vary in speed and direction, software algorithms will be able to determine where each balloon needs to go and move it into the wind layer that can blow it the right way.

Each balloon will last around 100 days in the stratosphere, before being brought back to Earth in a controlled descent for maintenance.

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