Google Project Loon Uses Balloons to Float Routers in the Sky to Extend Internet Access

Google tests giant balloons to connect 50 New Zealand homes to the internet. Google Project Loon Chief Technical Architect Rich DeVaul says the technology could bring websurfing to remote corners of the world.

Network in the Sky
Solar-powered Google Balloons carrying routers connect with ground antennas

Bands of balloon travel with winds at an altitude of about 12 miles (20 km) — about twice as high as the level that commercial jet aircraft fly. Internet coverage is provided by balloons passing and handing off signals as they move from one continent to the next continent. The balloons cruise in the stratosphere — well above the level of local weather conditions. Mount Everest’s summit, is 8.848 km (29,029 ft).

Internet users on the ground attach a special Internet antenna to their home to pick up signals. The balloon routers provide the link from ground-based Internet Service Providers and individual Internet users in remote locations of the world. Two-thirds of the earth’s population, or about 4.8 billion people don’t have access to the Internet.

Project Loon begins testing this weekend for 50 home users in New Zealand.

We believe it’s possible to create a ring of balloons that fly around the globe on the stratospheric winds and provide Internet access to the earth below. Balloons present some really hard science problems, but we’re excited about the progress so far.