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

(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.

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)
In this March 1, 2013 photo released by Google, a fully inflated test balloon sits in a hangar at Moffett Field airfield, Calif.   (AP Photo/Andrea Dunlap)
Tania Gilchrist stands outside her home below a red Google Internet receiver after agreeing to participate in Google's balloon testing program in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, June 14, 2013.   (AP Photo/Nick Perry)
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