I ran across Project Loon today. Is it possibly the future of Internet Connectivity?
Just recently, we received a call from Bright House offering an upgrade on our Internet. It was only a little more a each month. The catch is that our bill had just gone up for no apparent reason, and come to find out, we had were on a promotion that had just expired. Whatever this person was going sell (They were really a telemarketer working on behalf of Bright House), was going to expire so that even if it didn’t cost us any extra now, it would 6 months or a year from now.
It just seems like as technology improves, more people get involved, and we get more options (like cell phones and land lines), the price of the Internet should decrease. Maybe project Loon could change the rising price trend.
Project Loon is a project to use high altitude balloons to carry Internet relay points and provide Internet access across a wide area of the ground. It would seem that this concept would be cheaper than running copper or fiber to each household and business in an area. It would also be cheaper than going through a rocket launch to place a satellite in orbit.
Here’s a really nice overview of their project:
The inspiration behind Loon:
Other similar projects
Space Data: According to Wikipedia, Google had considered purchasing a company called Space Data. From their website, it looks like they already have a functioning high altitude balloon network working in the United States.
Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility: NASA has a facility that has been using similar balloons for research since 1961.
ARHAB: Many different explorers and enthusiasts have dabbled with the balloons. The group’s website suggests that this is “the poor mans space program”. Ralph Wallio is one of the pioneers. For example, one such organization is the California Near Space Project.
While Internet may be their stated goal, I couldn’t help but imagine what else could come of this. If Google built a network around the globe of these balloons, they could put cameras on the balloons and take satellite imagery of the earth. Would Google Maps update more often? Also, could Google provide data about weather patterns and such?
Update: June 2014…
Engadget published an article saying that Project Loon was doing well: One year in, and Google’s crazy internet-by-balloon project is doing just fine
- Test balloon lasted 100 days
- Test balloon circled the Earth 3 times
- LTE added to balloon boosting range and speed
- Project Loon Website
- Wikipedia: Project Loon
- Space Data: FAQ
- Wikipedia: Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility
- Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility Website
- Wikipedia: Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning
- Ralph Wallio, WØRPK
- amateur radio high altitude ballooning website
- California Near Space Project website