Google is launching about 30 superpressure balloons that will beam Internet access back to the ground.
With equal parts brevity and self-deprecation, the effort has been dubbed “Project Loon.”
Taking flight from New Zealand, the balloons will sail around the world on a controlled path. Meanwhile, they will offer 3G-ish Internet access to 50 testers located in New Zealand. Access will for now be intermittent, but Google reportedly hopes to build a fleet of such balloons, offering reliable connections to people in remote areas.
Controlled by computer servers and monitored by a small team of engineers, the balloons will traverse the stratosphere 12 miles above the ground — about double the altitude of commercial aircraft. Each balloon will be aloft for roughly 100 days and offer connectivity to an area about 25 miles in diameter.
The balloons have a diameter of about 50 feet. Dangling below is a battery of electronic equipment, including a flight computer, radio antennas and a solar panel to power everything.