Project Loon: Internet For Everyone

Have you ever imagined that the internet which has become a part and parcel of our life is still out of reach from almost two-third people of the world? It means that just over 30% of world’s total population currently have internet access.
On one hand, we talk about Net Neutrality which promotes the Internet without barriers and on other hand the world’s two third population is still anticipating to access the internet. To end this discrepancy, Google takes an initiative with Project Loon, with only one motto – ‘Internet for everyone’.
The end result of this project is to make the internet available to the remote and rural areas which has no internet connectivity. The project is in itself unique, as it uses set of balloons placed at high altitude to provide the internet.

How does it work?

As stated earlier in the article that Project Loon uses inflated balloons to provide internet. These balloons are placed in the stratosphere, almost 20 km above the earth’s surface. It is at least  twice the height where our modern aircrafts soar. The rudimentary reason to place the balloons at such high altitude was that the winds in the stratosphere flow at a slow and steady rate in different layers, with different layer moving at different speed and direction. Project Loon uses various decision-making algorithm to set the movement of the balloon up or down in the direction in which the wind blows. In this way, the balloons are arranged to provide a one large communication network.

Design of Loon:

The basic design of Loon comprises of three things, Envelope, energy panels and the equipment.
Envelope: The inflated balloon is known as an envelope. The balloons used for this project are made from polyethylene sheets with a size almost that of a tennis court, with an average life of not less than a 100 days. For safe landing of balloons (if required), a parachute is attached to the top of the balloon.
Energy Panels: The energy panel which is essentially a solar panel provides energy to all the equipment attached to the balloon. These solar panels not only provide the energy to perform all the daytime operations but also rejuvenates the battery so that all the equipment can work even at night. In this way, the project uses green renewable energy.
Equipment: There is a small box attached to the balloon which contains all the equipments required to perform various task. Like circuit boards for controlling the system, antennas to communicate with other balloons and the base station, GPS is used to track the location of balloons and batteries to store solar power.

How does Loon connect?

Project Loon will be partnered with many telecommunication companies to provide the internet even to the remote areas with a speed of 10 Mbps. First, the partnered telecom company transmit the internet signal to the nearest balloon, then it is relayed from one balloon to another and then finally sent to the user. As per Google, each balloon has a coverage area of 5000 square kilometers.
This project will not only provide the internet connectivity to the remote areas but also provide connectivity in disastrous situation like floods or earthquakes. The biggest example is Peru, where Project Loon helped people to stay connected with the rest of world when floods destroyed their homes, livelihood and infrastructure. Undoubtedly, when this project is fully implemented, it will prove to be a boon for mankind.

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