Google’s Project Loon launches internet balloons

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Google balloon
Flying the friendly internet skies with Google’s Project Loon.

Earlier this year, companies like Facebook, Nokia, and Samsung banded together in an effort to bring internet to the world. Well, Google has its own unique spin on making the net global… using balloons! No, not the flimsy rubbery kinds you get at the local carnival. You can’t inhale the helium and speak in a squeaky voice with these bad boys.

I mean, I don’t blame you for wondering how the heck balloons are the answer to spreading wifi across the world. Burning questions abound. How the heck are they going to get the balloons to stay in one place? Won’t the wind just blow them to the middle of the ocean or something? According to Google, these clever balloons aren’t going to fight the winds. They’re going to use them!

The 39-foot-tall balloons will be 12.5 miles high above Earth in a region known as the stratosphere. There, layers of winds blow steadily in opposite directions, almost like a two-way street. The balloon will cruise along the oxygen highway for a bit in one direction, then “switch lanes” and hitch a ride to get folks internet down below. Seems like the perfect solution right? Just keep circling around the same place to keep a constant connection going. Also, it’s not like the balloons will run out of energy, since they come equipped with solar panels!

Well… there is one tiny problem. The Project Loon team recognizes that most of the winds in the stratosphere flow from west to east, so the balloons won’t always be able to “switch lanes” as often as they need to! In order to combat this problem, Google announced that the balloons will be spaced above Earth in a flock, so if one begins to fly out of range, another one will instantly take it’s place and keep the people on the ground connected!

According to the company, around two thirds of the world don’t have access to the internet. Google believes that Project Loon will get these people online to experience the benefits of the world wide web.

Images and video courtesy of Google Project Loon.