Project Loon is a development and research project being undertaken by the Google team to provide internet access to the remote and rural areas. The main targets are the areas that are currently receiving poor internet connection from the current provisions. It also aim to improve on communication during strikes of the affected regions by natural disasters like Earth quakes, Tsunamis among others.
Google claims that there is a population of almost five billion people who still face difficulty in communication due to limited internet access and that’s why they have named it as the Project Loon. Some news refer to it as Google balloon internet.
The project Loon by google headed by Cyrus Behroozi who leads telecommunication and networking. Rich DeVaul, expert on Wearable technology is the chief technical architect. The project features high altitude balloons designed and positioned at the stratosphere. The balloons are placed at an altitude of about twenty miles creating an aerial wireless-network with up to 3G speed.
After identifying the wind layer bearing the expected direction and speed, the balloons are then controlled by adjusting their altitude and floats to a wind layer. The Wind speed and direction data is acquired from the NOAA; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The beneficiaries of the internet service will then connect to the balloon network via special internet antennas that they will attach to their buildings.
The signal transfer channel involve balloon to balloon signal transfer, then travels to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) based at a ground station and the finally to the global internet. The envelopes used in the balloons are designed by Raven Aerostar. They consist of polyethylene plastic measuring about 0.0030 inches thick. The balloons adopts super pressure filling with helium inside. When totally full, they stand at 12 meters tall and 15 meters across. The balloons elevation is controlled by a pump system that pumps air in or releases air to the ballast.
A 10 kilogram box hangs below the balloon which contains its electrical equipment and connections. Inside the small box, are circuit boards controlling the system, batteries for power solar storage, radio antennas and Ubiquiti networks for communication with the other balloons. Actually the balloon electrical system drives its power from solar panels producing 100 watts of power in a full sun. They are positioned between the box and the balloon itself. The batteries are charged by the solar panels during the day and stores power for operation during the night.
There is a parachute attached at the top of the balloon which deploys automatically in case of any unexpected system failure. The parachute allows for controlled and descent landing. Typically the balloon’s life is limited to 100 days though Google claims that they can modify it to achieve a maximum life of 200 days. The project will promote information access and efficient communication by those residing in remote locations. It will also enhance disaster management. However, there have been reported cases of the system crash in especially in South Africa, The United Sates and other regions. Google has not yet stated the cost of the project.