More than half of the world’s population is still without Internet access. In a bid to correct this Google has set for itself the task of providing free internet to marginalized areas through a project called “Project Loon”. The project comprises a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space. They are designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide. Google’s giant white Internet-delivering balloons have been floating through the skies for several years doing test rounds.
Google says these balloons can deliver widespread economic and social benefits by bringing Internet access to the 60 percent of the world who currently don’t have it. Many of these people live in developing countries like Kenya. These areas include rural and far flung areas where telcos have not set up the necessary infrastructure to support internet access through mobile networks.
Google has flown over 17 million km of test flights with their longest surviving balloon lasting for 187 days aloft in the stratosphere. High speed internet is transmitted up to the nearest balloon from Google telecommunications partner on the ground; Google seeks to partner with local telcos in this devour. The signal is then relayed across the balloon network, and then back down to users on the ground. They have demonstrated that data transmission is possible between balloons over 100 km apart in the stratosphere and back down to people on the ground with connection speeds of up to 10 Mbps, directly to their LTE phones.
In this project, Google has taken the most essential components of a cell tower and redesigned them to be light enough and durable enough to be carried by a balloon 20 km up in the stratosphere for substantial durations of time. All the equipment is energy-efficient and is powered entirely by renewable energy – solar.
Lately Wired has reported that the engineering team behind Google’s Project Loon is going to move away from using control algorithms that are hard-coded, and instead use machine learning to understand how best to stick to a desired flight path. Each balloon has a coverage area of 5000 square kilometers.