Many of us see the Internet as a global community. But the reality is that two-thirds of the world’s population still do not have access to the Internet. The Loon project is a network of balloons that will cross the border with space. It is designed to connect people living in remote or rural areas, to reach areas with lack of coverage, and for people to have internet again after a disaster.

Project Loon balloons travel 20 km above the earth’s surface in the stratosphere. In general, the winds in the stratosphere are stable and quite slow (8 to 32 km / h), and each layer of wind varies in direction and amplitude. Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where the balloons need to go, then moves them to a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction. As the balloons move with the wind, they can be directed to form a large communication network.

stratosphere

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The stratosphere is located at an altitude of 10 to 60 km above the border with outer space and owes its name to the different strata, or layers, of wind that form it. Its extreme altitude also presents unique technical challenges: atmospheric pressure is 1% above sea level, temperatures hover around -50 ° C and, in turn, a thinner atmosphere offers less protection against UV rays and temperature variations caused by sunlight. But with careful design of the balloon cover to cope with these conditions, Project Loon manages to take advantage of the invariable winds in the stratosphere and stay above weather, wildlife and airborne phenomena.

ball

The balloon cover is the part that inflates. Project Loon balloon lids are made from polyethylene plastic filaments and measure fifty feet wide by twelve feet high when inflated. They have been specially designed for use in overpressure balloons, which are more durable than weather balloons because they can withstand higher air pressure inside when the balloon reaches its flotation altitude. A parachute is added to the deck, which allows for controlled descent and landing when the balloon needs to be taken out of service.

panels

The electronics of each balloon are powered by solar panels located between the cover and the equipment. In direct sunlight, the panels produce 100 watts of power, enough to keep the balloon running while charging a battery for nighttime use. And because balloons travel with the wind and are charged by the sun, Project Loon produces its own energy using only renewable resources.

antenna

Under the inflated canopy, a box is located with the electronic equipment of the balloon, such as the baskets that carry hot air balloons. The box contains circuit boards that control the system, radio antennas that allow balloons to communicate with each other and with internet antennas on the surface, and batteries to store solar energy so the balloons can operate at night.

connectivity

Each balloon can provide connectivity to an area approximately 40 km in diameter, at speeds comparable to 3G. For communications between balloons and between a balloon and the surface, balloons use antennas equipped with specialized radio frequency technology. Project Loon currently uses ISM bands (specifically, the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands) which are available to everyone.

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The project has already started with a pilot test in New Zealand. A group of daring pioneers of the Loon Project will test this technology in Christchurch and Canterbury.

More information: google.com/loon