Google hopes to bring the internet to more people around the world through the use of high-altitude balloons, the internet services giant announced Saturday. Google says that two out of every three people on earth are without a reliable internet connection. Project Loon, developed by the company's "top secret" Google[x] lab, looks to solve that problem.
The balloons will rise about 12 and a half miles into the earth's stratosphere--higher than most aircraft and foul weather. Google says they will use wind patterns to direct the balloons across the globe, and solar power to run the onboard equipment.
"In full sun, these panels produce 100 Watts of power--enough to keep the unit running while also charging a battery for use at night," says Google's Project Loon website. The solar panels are suspended below the ballon, above a small box containing circuit boards and radio antennas. The balloons create a network among each other that connects to internet antennas on the ground.
The internet connection dispersed by the balloons is comparable in speed to a 3G mobile network, utilizing 2.4 and 5.8 GHz ISM bands that are openly available to potential users.
Google knows that the idea sounds far fetched (hence the looney name), and admits they won't be able to succeed alone.
"Now we need some help-this experiment is going to take way more than our team alone," said project lead Mike Cassidy in a prepared statement. "This week we started a pilot program in the Canterbury area of New Zealand with 50 testers trying to connect to our balloons...Over time, we'd like to set up pilots in countries at the same latitude as New Zealand. We also want to find partners for the next phase of our project-we can't wait to hear feedback and ideas from people who've been working for far longer than we have on this enormous problem of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas," said Cassidy.
You can follow their progress at Project Loon's Google+ page.