If it was 1 April, you might think it was just another of Google’s cheeky little April Fool’s Jokes, but Project Loon (launched today) is an actual experimental project from Google to make Balloon-Powered Internet a reality.
What? Balloon-Powered Internet? Yes. Internet access, powered by weather balloons in the stratosphere. Let me explain. We think of the Internet as a global community. But as Google points out, two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access.
Google’s idea of Project Loon is to create a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.
What better place to launch a Beta test of Project Loon than in an area prone to natural disasters? Google has chosen New Zealand, specifically right here in Christchurch, as their launch site for specially-designed solar powered balloons to test Project Loon. As the location of thousands of devastating earthquakes in the past 2 years, which knocked out power and Internet connectivity for weeks at a time, Christchurch was a natural choice to test the project.
Today a total of 30 balloons were launched a short distance from here, to travel up 20km above the earth and beam Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The experience of these pilot testers will be used to refine the technology and shape the next phase of Project Loon.
I jumped at the chance to become a Beta tester so hopefully, I’ll be one of the first people in the world selected to test balloon-powered Internet. If I am, you can bet I’ll be reporting on the experience right here 🙂