Google Launches Balloons That Beam the Internet
One balloon could provide service to New York-sized area
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 15, 2013 8:22 AM CDT
In this June 12, 2013 photo released by Google, Google's team at mission control monitors a balloon launch in Christchurch, New Zealand.   (AP Photo/Andrea Dunlap)

(Newser) – Wrinkled and skinny at first, the translucent, jellyfish-shaped balloons that Google released this week from a frozen field in the heart of New Zealand's South Island hardened into shiny pumpkins as they rose, passing the first big test of a lofty goal to get the entire planet online. It was the culmination of 18 months' work on what Google calls Project Loon, in recognition of how wacky the idea may sound. Developed in the secretive X lab, the flimsy helium-filled inflatables beam the Internet down to earth as they sail past on the wind.

Still in their experimental stage, the balloons were the first of thousands that Google's leaders eventually hope to launch 12 miles into the stratosphere in order to bridge the gaping digital divide between the world's 4.8 billion unwired people and their 2.2 billion plugged-in counterparts. If successful, the technology might allow countries to leapfrog the expense of laying fiber cable, dramatically increasing Internet usage in places such as Africa and Southeast Asia. Each balloon would provide Internet service for an area twice the size of New York City, about 780 square miles. "It's a huge moonshot. A really big goal to go after," said project leader Mike Cassidy. Click through for the full article.

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Showing 3 of 27 comments
Jun 15, 2013 11:28 PM CDT
Balloons that provide wifi, AND funnel all of their traffic directly through the NSA? Good to know.
Jun 15, 2013 6:38 PM CDT
supposed to be for remote areas - that have no elec, no computers, couldn't afford them if they could, so this is such a shithouse idea BUT Google has to do SOMEthing with all the money they are making from stoopid people that are stoopid enough to be giving ti to Google....
Jun 15, 2013 3:44 PM CDT
The US military uses SUAV's, or solar powered aircraft to provide a meshnet link in their system. A much larger version is operated by NASA and is capable of providing an aerial cell site. The idea is to put them aloft all over the USA and bring them down for maintenance. I like the idea of using idle phones to pass phone service in big metro areas. It would work like the smart meters. Each unit is a node capable of passing service through the network kind of like the military's mesh system. You phone is sitting there on a charger in a high rise apartment so it becomes a gateway node on the network. You don't realize its doing that as you drive down the street. Its a very robust system should they decide to implement it.