Project Loon: Google releases balloons so the whole world will have WiFi

w680 (1)This week saw the release of more information on Project Loon. This is an experiment by Google that involves sending up big balloons that are to provide the entire world with access to a WiFi signal. Although it may smack of some kind of corny April fool joke, Project Loon is a deadly serious exercise.

The pictures that were released this week show 50 large white air balloons being let go from Christchurch, New Zealand. As a result of the natural air currents that are at work across the globe, the balloons can float above normally uninhabitable territory, at an altitude twice as high as the average airplane can muster. The balloons have been equipped with a data signal that, once picked up from the ground, is as strong as a solid 3G connection.

The balloons are equipped with small sensors fed by solar energy so they can be controlled from the ground. For instance, the project team can make them fly higher or lower. The idea behind Project Loon is to have as much balloons as possible in continuous orbit around the globe, so that people in distant or underdeveloped areas can also access the Internet. Currently only one third of the world’s population has access to the web.

Going forward, Google particularly hopes to amass a host of data through specially designed receptors that are able to establish a connection with the airborne balloons. The project can be followed in real time on this Google+ page. Photos courtesy of WIRED.

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