Internet – Beyond the Horizons

Is Sky the Limit? Well Google has been challenging this proposition with its highly innovative products but this time it does so quite literally with its Project Loon.

What is Project Loon?

Google who specializes in Internet related services and products, through this pilot project aims to make Internet accessibility possible in far fledged regions. If the experiment is successful, it can usher in a new revolution in how we access Internet.

Under this project, a network of balloons positioned in space is likely to facilitate Internet accessibility on earth. The project is currently implemented in New South Island, New Zealand with 50 pilot testers and 30 balloons

How does it work?

Project Loon balloons are approximately 20 kms above earth’s surface into the stratosphere.

Stratosphere comprises of different layers of wind with each layer having a different magnitude as well as direction of the wind. Selection of a particular layer for a balloon is controlled by complex computing algorithms from the earth.

Three important components here are:

  1. Envelope: It is the inflatable part of the balloon. Project Loon’s balloon envelopes are made from sheets of polyethylene plastic and are typically 15m wide and 12 m tall
  2. Solar Panels: Solar panels basically keep the show running here. Positioned between the hardware and the panel has a capacity to produce 100 watts of power in full sun
  3. Equipment: Beneath the envelope lies the heart of the mechanism i.e. the box containing the circuitry. This box contains circuit boards that control the system, radio antennas to communicate with other balloons and with Internet antennas on the ground, and batteries to store solar power so the balloons can operate during the night.

Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter with speeds equivalent to 3G

Balloon-to- Balloon as well as Balloon-to-Ground communication is possible through antennas using specialized radio frequency technology and currently uses ISM bands specifically 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands.

The project if successful will not revolutionize how we use Internet but also why, where and when do we use it. It would be interesting to know how best this can be leveraged in the aerospace.



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