Project Loon: Google plans to bring its balloon-powered Internet to more countries

Google has posted a video on Project Loon's Google+ page hinting at scaling up the project to launch it in many more countries.

Google's Project Loon has been in the works for some years now. It is an initiative to launch balloons in the sky with internet-enabled circuitry to provide Internet access in remote areas. Google has posted a video on Project Loon's Google+ page hinting at scaling up the project to launch it in many more countries.

Project Loon uses balloons that travel 20 km above the earth. Using software algorithms, Loon determines where the balloon needs to go depending upon the wind. It started as a pilot project in New Zealand wherein 30 balloons were launched. Last year in November, Google announced that Project Loon has the ability to launch up to 20 balloons per day. According to a Google+ post, it was possible because the autofill equipment had improved and the time to fill the balloon had come down under 5 minutes. The balloons can now last up to 10 times longer in the stratosphere, than they did in 2013 and a lot of them have lasted over 100 days – with 130 days being a record, Google had said. Google is carrying out trials with cellular operators in Australia, Latin America and New Zealand.

In the video above, project lead Mike Cassidy takes us behind the scenes of Project Loon and how the team is addressing the challenges they are facing. "The goal of Project Look is to bring internet to almost 2 out of 3 people in the world who don't have internet access today," says Cassidy.

In the video Cassidy talks about increasing capacity of manufacturing the balloons, about mission control system to keep track of the balloons and about the different kind of teams associated with the project. He touches up on the challenges such as durability of the balloons and scaling up the project to different countries.

The number of days that the balloons can stay in the air has increased to 100 days. Also the process of taping the balloon used to take 3 to 4 days initially, but now with Google's in-house manufacturing unit, it takes a few hours to complete taping on one balloon says Cassidy. While launching the balloons was a manual job initially, now Google can launch balloons via automated cranes and dozens of balloons can be launched in a day using these cranes.

Google has partnered with telecom service providers in test countries to provide LTE cellular coverage. The idea is to connect every remote corner of the world and Project Loon engineers track the balloon right from the time it is launched to the time it is in the air to the time it is taken down. The coverage areas are also neatly divided so as to ensure the reach of the connectivity isn't hampered.

According to a news report in February in The Times of India, Google was in talks with the Indian government to introduce Project Loon in India. Mohammad Gawdat, VP of business Innovation at Google X told the news site that the company planned to launch a commercial format that would allow coverage on “every square inch” on earth by 2016. He also said that the company was working ‘closely’ with telcos and governments across the world to achieve this.


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