CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – Google revealed top-secret plans Saturday to send balloons to the edge of space with the lofty aim of bringing Internet to the two-thirds of the global population currently without web access.
Scientists from the technology giant Saturday released up to 30 helium-filled test balloons flying 20 km above Christchurch in New Zealand, carrying antennae linked to ground base stations.
While still in the early stages, Project Loon hopes eventually to launch thousands of balloons to provide Internet to remote parts of the world, allowing the more than 4 billion people with no access to get online.
It could also be used to help after natural disasters, when existing communication infrastructure is affected.
“Project Loon is an experimental technology for balloon-powered Internet access,” the company said on its latest project from its clandestine Google (x), “where we work on radical, sci-fi-sounding technology solutions to solve really big world problems.”
“Balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, can beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster,” it added.
“It is very early days, but we think a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, might be a way to provide affordable Internet access to rural, remote, and underserved areas down on Earth below, or help after disasters, when existing communication infrastructure is affected.”