Google future balloon LTE network

Few weeks ago The Mobile Globe published an article on the One Web project and we promised that we will follow up with similar initiatives.

Google has named the project for balloon network Project Loon. The first test are done together with Vodafone New Zealand.

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The plan

Google aim is to launch a new ballon every 30 minutes by using specially designed Autolaunchers.

So far the company claims to have flown over 17 million km of test with one of the record-breaking balloons surviving for 187 days aloft in the stratosphere.

High speed internet is transmitted up to the nearest balloon from Google’s telecommunications partner on the ground, relayed across the balloon network, and then back down to users on the ground.

The current tests have demonstrated data transmission between balloons over 100 km apart in the stratosphere and back down to people on the ground with connection speeds of up to 10 Mbps, directly to their LTE phones.

Project Loon balloons are designed and manufactured at scale to survive the conditions in the stratosphere, where winds can blow over 100 km/hr and the thin atmosphere offers little protection from UV radiation and dramatic temperature swings which can reach as low as -90°C.

Made from sheets of polyethylene, each tennis court sized balloon is built to last more than 100 days in the stratosphere before returning to the ground in a controlled descent.

Balloon video

Project Loon has taken the most essential components of a cell tower and redesigned them to be light enough and durable enough to be carried by a balloon 20 km up in the stratosphere.

All the equipment is highly energy-efficient and is powered entirely by renewable energy – with solar panels powering daytime operations and charging a battery for use during the night.

The custom-built Autolaunchers are designed to launch Loon balloons safely and reliably at scale. Huge side panels provide protection from the wind as the balloon is filled and lifted into launch position, and then the crane is pointed downwind to smoothly release the balloon up into the stratosphere. Each crane is capable of filling and launching a new balloon into the Loon network every 30 minutes.

Launching video

 

The balloons travel approximately 20 km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere, well above airplanes, wildlife, and weather events. In the stratosphere winds are stratified, and each layer of wind varies in speed and direction.

To get balloons to where they need to go, Project Loon uses predictive models of the winds and decision-making algorithms to move each balloon up or down into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to provide coverage where it’s needed.

Project Loon is partnering with telecommunications companies to extend connectivity into rural and remote areas so that people everywhere will be able to access the Internet directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices.

Wireless internet signal is transmitted up to the nearest balloon from our telecommunications partner on the ground, relayed across the balloon network, and then sent back down to people in rural and remote areas. Each balloon has a coverage area of 5000 square kilometers.

Delivering connectivity

The Project Loon team tracks the location of every balloon using GPS, coordinating directly with the local air traffic control to bring each one safely to ground targeting sparsely populated areas.

When a balloon is ready to be taken out of service, the lift gas keeping the balloon aloft is released and the parachute deploys automatically to bring the balloon to the ground in a controlled descent. Our recovery teams then collect the equipment for reuse and recycling.

Landing video

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