Google's Project Loon Balloon Internet Venture Seeks Calif. Testers
Essentially, Google describes Project Loon as "balloon-powered Internet for everyone." The balloons will float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather, and can be "steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired direction," according to Google. "People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth." The balloons themselves are made of very thin plastic that's about 3 mils thick, according to Google. The balloon plastic is a superpressure vessel, which means its shape stays constant and doesn't expand like a Mylar party balloon as more gas is placed inside. The balloons are 15m in diameter when fully inflated (the length of a small, light aircraft), but they do not inflate until they've reached float altitude in the stratosphere, according to Google. Wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is presently used to predict potential flight pathways for the balloons. In March, Google began a related trial project in South Africa to help bring Internet access to more residents in that developing nation using unused parts of the television spectrum called "white spaces." The South Africa project involves a trial with 10 schools in the Cape Town area that were slated to receive wireless broadband over a white space network. Google began a white space trial in the United States in 2010 after two years of delays following its initial 2008 announcement of the effort.