Internet has undoubtedly changed our lives. It is one of the most transformative technologies due to which world has become a global village. Though millions of people use Internet and its services every day, there are still some people on earth for whom a fast, affordable Internet connection is out of reach.
There are many terrestrial challenges involved in connecting to a Internet service. Jungles, mountains, etc will block the signals or cause connection problems leading to improper speed of Internet. Besides, there are also high cost problems just like the countries in the southern hemisphere encounter, the cost of an Internet connection is more than an individual’s income in a month.
Solving these problems is not an easy job; it requires a deep study of the associated complexities of the problem in all angles. As an initiative, search giant Google is releasing 30 high-tech balloons that can bring Internet to remote places or to places where people are not yet connected. These balloons are prepared to fly into the sky from New Zealand’s South Island.
It’s called the Project Loon, a network of balloons peregrinating on the edge of space, and built to connect Internet to people at rural or remote areas or to bring them back to online after disasters. If this project becomes successful, two-thirds of the global population, who according to the Google experience slow and expensive Internet access will benefit.
Each balloon is about 15m (49.2ft) filled with lifting gases. Electronic equipments including radio antennas, a flight computer, solar panels to power the gear and an altitude control system is hanged below the balloon. They will fly in the stratosphere, 20km or more above the ground, which is more than the altitude used by the commercial aircraft.
Google says each balloon should stay in the air for about 100 days, providing Internet connection to an area stretching 40km in diameter below. Special antennas have been fitted to the homes of 50 testers in Newzealand to receive the balloons’ signals. One of the tester, a farmer was the first to get access to the balloon based Internet.
But balloons left free in the sky can move wherever the winds take them. To avoid this problem and to make them available at the place where Internet is needed, the balloons will communicate with Google’s “mission control”. Computer servers will perform the calculations required to keep them on track supervised by a group of engineers.
The software adjusts each balloons altitude to make use of forecast wind conditions, and pushes the balloon slightly up or down to find a more favorable place for it. Since, all the electronic equipment is dependent on solar power, algorithms must ensure that there is enough charge left in the batteries so that the balloons can be powered as they travel during night.
Google says that these balloons possess aviation transponders, radar reflectors, and flashing lights which will avoid aviation hazards and interference with aircraft’s. Not just aircraft’s, they pose a very low risk to the people on the ground too, as they have parachutes that fly them in case of any software failure in the balloon.
With all these safety precautions, Google acknowledges the project as “highly experimental” at this stage.