How can balloons be used to connect people?
Over half of the global population has no internet access. With Project Loon, X is connecting the world from the sky. Project Loon is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space that extends internet connectivity to people in rural communities worldwide.
An internet connection is transmitted to the balloon in the fleet closest to a connection on the ground, where it is then relayed to the entire fleet of balloons before being transmitted back to a receiver on the ground. The project has flown over 25 million km of test flights so far, demonstrating data transmission between balloons over 100km apart in the stratosphere and back down to people on the ground able to receive a connection speed of up to 10Mbps on their smartphone.
Each tennis court-sized balloon is designed to survive the stratosphere, where temperatures as low as -90c and UV radiation create harsh conditions. The balloons carry only the most essential parts of a telecommunications tower, redesigned to be light and durable. The equipment, powered by renewable energy, is highly energy efficient.
The balloons act as local cell towers, where people on the ground connect through a partnered network operator. For many rural communities, access to internet connectivity improves livelihoods.
Return to earth
The location of every balloon is tracked using GPS. When a balloon is ready to return to the ground, a controlled descent takes place in sparsely populated areas. Once recovered, the equipment is then reused or recycled.
This story shows how X supports Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, specifically Target 9.C: “Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.”
X is a moonshot factory. Its mission is to invent and launch “moonshot” technologies that it hopes could someday make the world a radically better place.
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