Google’s Project Loon beams Internet through balloons

Google reveals top-secret plans to beam Internet to two-thirds of the global population using balloons sent to the edge of space. On Saturday, scientists release up to 30 helium-filled test balloons flying 20 kilometers above Christchurch in New Zealand, carrying antennae linked to ground base stations. Project Loon hopes to provide Internet to remote parts of the world, allowing more than 4 billion people with no access to get online. It could also be used to help after natural disasters, when existing communication infrastructure is affected. The company says the balloons, which can be carried at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, can beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to 3G networks or faster. It works by ground stations connecting to the local Internet infrastructure and beaming signals to the balloons, which are self-powered by solar panels. Some 50 people were chosen to take part in the trial and were able to link to the Internet. The project is still in the early stages, but Google says its ultimate goal is to have a ring of balloons circling the Earth and providing Internet access worldwide. Google says, “The idea may sound a bit crazy — and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon — but there’s solid science behind it. This is still highly experimental technology and we have a long way to go.”

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