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Google’s ‘Loon’ broadband balloon completes 120 days of flight at the edge of space

The company that makes the broadband-spreading air balloons for Google’s Project Loon says one of its test balloons has now been flying for more than 120 days.

The company, Raven Aerostar, announced the milestone on its one-year anniversary as Google’s balloon supplier. (Fun fact: Raven Aerostar has also been a U.S. military contractor for eons. Good to know, especially given Google’s vehement denials of tech-sharing and cooperation with the U.S. government and military. End editorializing and insinuations.)

The test balloon, called Ibis 152, was launched from New Zealand on February 26 and has circled the earth twice.

Google wants to launch a fleet of these balloons to fly up near the stratosphere and deliver broadband service to people in rural and remote areas. Google hopes the balloons might fill gaps in broadband coverage areas and bring people back online after disasters.

Project Loon team members install a Loon Internet antenna at a school in Brazil.

Above: Project Loon team members install a Loon Internet antenna at a school in Brazil.

Image Credit: Google

In the stratosphere, Google explains, there are many layers of wind, and each layer of wind varies in direction and speed. According to the company, Loon balloons go where they’re needed by rising or descending into a layer of wind blowing in the desired direction of travel.

Google also says each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 kilometers in diameter at speeds comparable to 3G. For balloon-to-balloon and balloon-to-ground communications, the balloons use antennas equipped with specialized radio frequency technology. Project Loon currently uses the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands, which are available for anyone to use.

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.

Raven Aerostar was named as Google’s balloon supplier last summer.

The 120-day milestone proves that the Loon Balloons can survive the tough conditions of the stratosphere for long periods of time.

Raven says Loon Balloons have now traveled more than a million and a half kilometers, allowing Raven Aerostar’s knowledge and expertise to propel super pressure ballooning technology forward exponentially.

Google’s Project Loon also successfully delivered connectivity through a recent demonstration in Agua Fria, Brazil. Over 100 million people in Brazil are not currently connected to the Internet.

More information:

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3 comments
Laurent Panetier
Laurent Panetier

120 days in the stratosphere is great and the idea of giving access to the internet to the most remote areas of the planet is excellent. However, the requirements (having a building equipped with a specific antenna for instance) are still important and not every building will be equipped so there  still will be major gaps in the internet connection. To boot other key issues are internet on the go (through smartphones), data consumption and terminal storage capabilities. So even if it is great news, I reckon they are still a long way from achieving their goal when some solutions such has Android Application to stay connected to the internet with low or no data network already exists....Just check Be-Bound...

Misty Misty
Misty Misty

they need Loon over Levis stadium. amirite? hahaha