updated 09:44 pm EDT, Sat June 15, 2013
Project Loon working to provide Internet access in remote areas
Google is working on a way to provide Internet access around the world, using balloons. "Project Loon," the latest "moonshot" project out of Google X Labs, will use a number of balloons to create a high-altitude network, with the aim of users getting 3G-speed Internet connections in the most remote parts of the world.
The project hopes to fly balloons at twice the altitude of commercial planes, while still allowing for base stations at homes and businesses to connect. The fleet of balloons will navigate around the world using solar power and stratospheric winds, with the final project using software algorithms to work out how high to fly to drift in the right direction, and therefore keep the network connected.
While the project is said by Google to be in its "early days," it could have been working on it for some time. A report in 2008 suggested that the search giant was working with a balloon wireless firm to see if it could create a wide-area Internet network.
A pilot program is starting up in New Zealand, with 50 testers attempting to connect to 30 Project Loon balloons over the course of a week, and it is looking towards setting up similar tests in other countries in the same latitude.