Loon For All
Project Loon, the moonshot project from Google X labs which aims to bring broadband internet access to the entire world through the use of high-altitude balloons, is partnering up with Telstra to extend their trials within Australia.

Google has been trialling Project Loon, within Australia over the last few months, with the balloons showing up over the last couple of months on flight tracking service FlightRadar24. The Project Loon trials will continue in December, with Google planning to launch up to 20 more balloons in Western Queensland – the same location they used to test another of their moonshots: Project Wing.

Project Loon - Australia

The Project Loon ballons will allow Google to deliver broadband internet to an area with a diameter of up to 40Km, delivering LTE services from third-party carriers such as Telstra. Speaking to ITWire, a Telstra represenatative advised

We are excited to be working with Google on Project Loon. The trial will allow us to jointly test the potential of this technology for the Australian environment. As part of Telstra’s contribution to the trial we have supplied access to suitable spectrum.

The trial begins later this year, so keep your eye on the skies, or on FlightRadar 24 to see them when they’re in-flight.

Source: ITWire.
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Colonel Klink

Apologies but I have a potentially stupid question… How is it that these balloons are safe with aircraft?. Is it just that they are at high altitude? What happens if they drift or inclement weather makes them descend rapidly? Can you imagine if one of these hit an airliner?

Daniel Tyson

Actually it wouldn’t be terribly catatrophic if an airliner DID hit one. They’re not terribly solid, being mainly composed of a light material filled with helium gas.

As for the actual circumstances of hitting one it’s pretty low. Project Loon balloons on average rise to a ‘cruising’ altitude of around 18 Km (about 60,000 ft), while airliners typically cruise at around 9-12Km (30,000-40,000 ft). The Project Loon balloons actually show up quite well on flight radar as well, and they are generally launched outside of usual flight pathways.

Hope this answers your question?

Phil Tann

Just adding to Daniel’s comments: The fact that they’re appearing on Flight radar means they’re broadcasting ads-b codes which makes them clearly visible on plane radar and navigation systems (to the pilots) as well as flight control centres when they’re in controlled airspace.

The likelihood of collision with all of these factors, as well as international flight regulations is extremely remote.