Google’s Project Loon, the effort to bring Internet connectivity to more remote areas using a network of hot air balloons, has racked up an impressive achievement – going around the world in just 22 days. One of the project’s test balloons just managed this, despite estimates from the team that it would take around 33 days for it to make the trek.
This particular prototype balloon is just the latest in a series of revisions designed to put various aspects of their design to the test. It featured an improved air pump, according to Project Loon’s Google+ page, making it more adept at handling the high-wind weather systems it encountered on its journey and helping it speed things along.
Both Google and Facebook have ambitious plans to bring the Internet to the next billion people, Google’s going full-speed with its hot air balloon network. Of course, these initiatives aren’t altogether unselfish; more Internet means more users for both companies. Does that mean we’ll eventually see Google’s zeppelins waging war with Facebook’s robo-drones for control of the global network? Unlikely, but not impossible.
Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. In the stratosphere, there are many layers of wind, and each layer of wind varies in direction and speed. Loon balloons go where they’re needed by rising or descending into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel. People can connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from this antenna up to the balloon network, and then down to the global Internet on Earth.
(Image Source: iCLIPART)