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Tech + Engineering

17
Jun

Google Balloons Send Internet Soaring Through the Clouds

Jon Brodkin, writing for ArsTechnica:

Google this week launched 30 balloons into the stratosphere in the first step toward creating what it calls a “network in the sky” that could eventually bring “balloon-powered Internet [to] everyone.”

Dubbed “Project Loon,” Google’s balloon-based wireless networks aim to bring 3G-like speed to what Google says are the “2 out of every 3 people on Earth” who lack a fast, affordable Internet connection. Google’s plan has been rumored for weeks. As we wrote earlier this month, balloon-based communications are well established for military communications and have been proposed for public safety use in disaster areas. Google could be the first to make balloon-based networks widely used for commercial Internet access.

One of the key hurdles Google had to surmount was how to maintain coverage with a fleet of balloons that is, at least partially, at the mercy of the winds. They solved it like they have many other problems—by throwing massive amounts of computing power at it. That way each balloon can piggyback on air currents, and when the winds aren’t in its favor, nudge the craft onto a favorable course.

Project Loon
Google is not the first to pursue balloons as vehicles for commercial Internet access, but its use of wind and solar power to direct their paths is innovative.

Discover how Google dreamt up this way to access the cloud through technology held aloft in the clouds: