Google’s Project Loon, a project which uses balloons flying at high altitude to ‘connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters’ is no stranger in Australia. They’ve shown up before and continue to do so. Unfortunately, as they generally cruise approximately 20 km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere, actually seeing one isn’t going to be easy. At Google I/O they brought one down to the ground and we can take a look up close.
The balloon component on Loon when it’s in flight is a little different to what they have here – it’s for illustrative purposes as they say, but the communications payload below appears to be intact. The boxes below contain sensors, antennas and transmission equipment designed to deliver wireless internet as required, there’s also solar panels on board which are linked with batteries to supply power to all that equipment.
Currently Google’s Loon balloon is supplying LTE coverage to the people of Sri Lanka, and they’ve also signed on to provide coverage to the 17,000 islands in Indonesia in partnership with Indonesia’s XL Axiata, Indosat and Telkomsel carriers. Google and Telstra have previously teamed up for tests with Loon, but nothing further has been announced at this stage.