India with more than 300 million Internet users is emerging as the most sought-after destination for global tech giants like Facebook who announced Internet.org in India recently and not far behind, Google has decided to set up its ballong-based Loon project in India to access the remote and rural areas within the ambit of the connected world.
Media reports said Google is negotiating with the Indian government to introduce its Project Loon, which envisages launching high-altitude balloons to provide internet access to people without any traditional landline-based or satellite-based internet access.
Mohammad Gawdat, VP of business Innovation at Google X told the Times of India that the company plans to launch a venture that will allow “every square inch” on earth covered by internet by 2016 and that the firm is working ‘closely’ with telecom companies and governments all over the world.
Project Loon that was experiment last year in November across New Zealand sends balloons that travel 20 km above the earth and remains steady depending upon the wind. Google said its Project Loon can launch up to 20 balloons in a day, in its Google+ post, with the autofill equipment that can fill ballon in just five minutes.
The Project Loon balloons can last up to 10 times longer in the stratosphere, compared to their experimental ballons in 2013 which have lasted well over 100 days, up to 130 days.
Coupled with the Project Loon, Google is alsoreportedly exploring a wind power project with an aeroplane-like kite measuring up to 300 metres “to do a manoeuvre aided by the direction of the wind” and its movements generate power.
“We believe through this we should be able to get a 100% improvement on the current renewable technology out there. It will be available at a much cheaper cost,” Gawdat further told the Times of India, hoping that the porject would commence in 2016, if approved.
What is Project Loon?
Project Loon of Google uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the same direction.
Once in stratosphere of space, between 10 km and 60 km in altitude, its unique engineering challenges come to play when the air pressure is 1% that at sea level. Here, the think atmosphere offers less protection from UV radiation and oscillating swings in the temperature reaching as low as -80°C.
Loon’s balloons are made from polyethylene plastic, measuring 15 meters wide by 12 meters tall when fully filled with air. To make balloon taken out of service, gas is released from the envelope to bring it down to Earth in a controlled descent. In case the balloon drops too quickly, a parachute attached to the top of the envelope is deployed.
Each balloon has an array of solar panels, which are flexible plastic laminated, supported by a light-weight aluminum frame and equipped with high efficiency monocrystalline solar cells. The panels provide about 100 Watts of power in full sun, which is enough to keep Loon’s electronics running while charging a battery for use at night too. By moving with the wind and charging in the sun, Project Loon is able to combine power usage and wind element.
A small box at the bottom of the balloon, carried by a hot air balloon, contains circuit boards that control the system, radio antennas to communicate with other balloons and with Internet antennas on the ground, and lithium ion batteries to store solar power for use in the night.
Each balloon can provide internet connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter using LTE wireless technology. The Project Loon has plans to partner with telecommunications companies to share cellular spectrum to enable people access the Internet everywhere directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. Balloons relay wireless traffic from cell phones and other devices back to the global Internet using high-speed links, like any other satellite-based wi-fi provider.