- Flying Altitude – 75000 feet
- Speed – Wind Speed
- Coverage – 80 Km
- Energy – Solar
As we all are well aware, that in the stage when we are, fully equipped with 4G network and nurturing the 5G establishments (some developed countries are developing 6G), there are places in the world which are still deprived of good internet facilities, due to their location which may be remote or by any other political/geographical factors.
So to bridge this gap Loon LLC an Alphabet Inc. subsidiary (formally Google X) is working on providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. Loon is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of the space, delivering connectivity to the people in unserved and underserved areas round the globe.
These are Solar powered Balloon shaped structures and are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude in the stratosphere to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then into the global Internet. The user needs to attach an configured antenna to the building to enjoy the services, the cost of the antenna is not much and is easy to configure.
In the first stage the balloons communicated using unlicensed 2.4 Ghz and 5.8 GHz ISM bands (radio bands used for Industrial, Scientific and Medical purposes), and Google claimed that it allowed to deliver “speeds comparable to 3G” to users, but they then switched to LTE (4G) (Long Term Evolution) with cellular spectrum by cooperating with local telecommunication operators. It is unclear how technologies that rely on short communications times (low latency pings), such as VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), might need to be modified to work in an environment similar to mobile phones where the signal may have to relay through multiple balloons before reaching the wider Internet. Google also experimented with laser communication technology to interconnect balloons at high altitude and achieved a data rate of 155 Mbit/s over a distance of 100 km.
The first person to connect and receive internet access from one of the Loon balloons was Charles Nimmo, a farmer and entrepreneur from New Zealand who was one of 50 people to become a pilot tester for Loon.
The design architecture was developed by Raven Aerostar Super Pressure Balloon, composed of polyethylene plastic about 0.076 mm thick. The balloons are super pressure balloons filled with helium, standing 15 m across and 12 m tall when fully inflated. Loon balloon’s electronics are powered by an array of solar panels. In full sun, the panels produce 100 watts of power, which is sufficient to keep the unit running while also charging a battery for use at night.
To control maneuvering of the balloon a parachute called Raven Aerostar Payload Recovery Parachute, is attached to the top, allows a controlled descent, landing and payload recovery when a balloon is ready to be taken out of service. In the case of an unexpected failure, the parachute deploys automatically. When taken out of service, the balloon is guided to an easily reached location, and the helium is vented into the atmosphere. The balloons typically have a maximum life of about 100 days, although Google claims that its tweaked design can enable them to stay aloft for closer to 200 days.
Though the technology is still in its embryonic stage but may prove helpful during natural disasters and calamities when we face a total shutdown of internet services. It also supplements existing networks and can provide expedient services at places which lacks it.