In the latest Google X moonshot, the Mountain View, California corporation intends to use balloons–yes, balloons–to bring the internet to the entire world. No, this isn’t another one of Google’s April fools jokes and no, this isn’t another “Google Nose.” This is very real and although the project is in its infancy, it’s definitely a project.
We believe that it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below. It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters. The idea may sound a bit crazy—and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon—but there’s solid science behind it.
Steven Levy of Wired reports that the project started “a little under two years ago.” The project has apparently already launched in New Zealand with 50 testers and according the project’s blog post, Google launched 30 balloons just this week.