Google explains how Project Loon will provide stable internet coverage

By on September 2, 2013, 10:30 AM
google, internet, project loon, wind current, x lab, balloon

Back in June, we reported that Google has plans to provide worldwide internet coverage via a network of floating balloons. Another brainchild of the mysterious Google X Lab, the balloons are to be launched into the stratosphere, armed with solar panels to power its radio and flight equipment. Although “Project Loon” has already entered the early testing stage, there is one question that still needs to be answered: how will these balloons remain evenly spaced out to provide consistent, unwavering coverage?

To answer this inquiry, Dan Piponi of Project Loon released a video describing the technique that Google intends to use. The method involves monitoring publicly-available wind data to determine where the currents are travelling at any given time. By altering the altitude of each balloon, they can effectively jump from current to current, changing direction as Google sees fit. Ultimately, this process would allow the balloons to be navigated with some accuracy, ensuring that the entire network is adequately spaced out.

Traditionally, wind currents in the stratosphere travel west to east, so the entire flock would eventually be forced along this path. To address this problem, Google plans to release a steady stream of balloons that will essentially encircle the earth, and if done correctly, stable internet access will be maintained.

As with most new technologies, the system is not fail proof and still needs some work. Currently, a computer simulation has been developed to show how the principle works in theory, but this is in no way a finished model.

“As we move forward, we may use methods that take into account everything; so every balloon essentially will have information about what every other balloon is doing,” explained Piponi. “In the future, it will probably be a much more sophisticated simulation.”

So how did Google come up with this ingenious flight plan? Interestingly, the inspiration came from the way birds flock together when they fly. Be sure to watch the official simulation video below.

Image via ITworld




User Comments: 15

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TheBigFatClown said:

Google Fiber was a better idea. This seems really stupid to me. I guess it's okay as long as they don't ever classify any of these floating wi-fi hotspots as critical. Wouldn't running more fiber underground be easier than this?

Bubbajim Bubbajim said:

It's an utterly different venture to Google Fibre because it's going after a totally different market. Fibre is about connecting up cities with an existing infrastructure to work with - Loon is going for areas that typically rely on satellite internet, places where there is no existing infrastructure to work with.

Guest said:

Well, I hope it works out. We could use some more options for high speed/low lag here in Minnesota. With satellite, the lag time is to high for VPN and games.

TheBigFatClown said:

It's an utterly different venture to Google Fibre because it's going after a totally different market. Fibre is about connecting up cities with an existing infrastructure to work with - Loon is going for areas that typically rely on satellite internet, places where there is no existing infrastructure to work with.

I realize what the situation is. Maybe I just don't have a deep enough understanding of the economics involved in both methods. They both sound ridiculously expensive. And so if they are both ridiculously expensive to set up why not go with a more bullet proof system that will tie in with everything else. What exactly is the infrastructure that exists that makes fiber so easy to deploy in a city versus a more rural area? I get the point about "city" versus "country" and how everything might be closer but what specific infrastructure are you referring to? I would like some costs analysis for both methods to see which is gonna be more bang for the buck. Floating balloons just sounds like a gimmick to me but I could be proven wrong.

And if they ran fibre into more rural areas I'll bet people wouldn't mind living in the country as much. I am not saying that most people would make their decision on the availability of high-speed internet alone but it would eliminate one of the downsides to living in the country.

In other words, "Build it, and they will come.".

Guest said:

This is how Google will take over the Earth.

GunsAblazin said:

It's an utterly different venture to Google Fibre because it's going after a totally different market. Fibre is about connecting up cities with an existing infrastructure to work with - Loon is going for areas that typically rely on satellite internet, places where there is no existing infrastructure to work with.

I realize what the situation is. Maybe I just don't have a deep enough understanding of the economics involved in both methods. They both sound ridiculously expensive. And so if they are both ridiculously expensive to set up why not go with a more bullet proof system that will tie in with everything else. What exactly is the infrastructure that exists that makes fiber so easy to deploy in a city versus a more rural area? I get the point about "city" versus "country" and how everything might be closer but what specific infrastructure are you referring to? I would like some costs analysis for both methods to see which is gonna be more bang for the buck. Floating balloons just sounds like a gimmick to me but I could be proven wrong.

And if they ran fibre into more rural areas I'll bet people wouldn't mind living in the country as much. I am not saying that most people would make their decision on the availability of high-speed internet alone but it would eliminate one of the downsides to living in the country.

In other words, "Build it, and they will come.".

Basically cities already have underground tunnels that fiber lines can be routed through. Along with the high demand and booming population; recouping their expenses will take no time at all. That in contrast to rural areas which have not the tunnels, population, or demand for fiber - it would be impossible for Google to recoup their costs to install a fiber network.

People won't move out to the country for a fast internet connection.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

If this is feasible, I'm all for it. It's high time the less fortunate had access to the internet we just take for granted. The world has moved on & they deserve to be part of it. If Google has the greater good of mankind in mind apart from just making money then I'll tip my hat to them.

Guest said:

What about sky pollution? Will we always have a balloon visible in the sky?

What about aircraft safety?

Guest said:

Waste the last of earth's helium so some guy can download porn. Goodbye superconductivity.

TheBigFatClown said:

Basically cities already have underground tunnels that fiber lines can be routed through. Along with the high demand and booming population; recouping their expenses will take no time at all. That in contrast to rural areas which have not the tunnels, population, or demand for fiber - it would be impossible for Google to recoup their costs to install a fiber network.

People won't move out to the country for a fast internet connection.

Well yeah, why would they move from the city to the country for Google Fiber alone. That doesn't make any sense. But your missing the point. If Google Fiber was available in the country areas it might encourage more people to move into the country. So they aren't moving out to the country "for" Google Fiber as you so stated. They are moving out to the country because they wouldn't have to give up what they already have. That was my point.

I moved from the country to the city after 3 years because there was no high-speed internet and Google Fiber was/is coming to my city. I may be the exception to the rule. But I find it hard to function without high-speed internet these days.

Thanks for the info with regards to infrastructure though. It makes a little more sense to me now in spite of not having all the details.

TheBigFatClown said:

If this is feasible, I'm all for it. It's high time the less fortunate had access to the internet we just take for granted. The world has moved on & they deserve to be part of it. If Google has the greater good of mankind in mind apart from just making money then I'll tip my hat to them.

Your statement about people in the country deserving high-speed internet is somewhat confusing. The first universal assumption you appear to be making is that everyone in the country is of the "less fortunate" class. Which I doubt is the case. The country has the rich and the poor just like the city.

If they want Google Fiber bad enough they will sell their home and move to the city like I did.

I still think it would be easier to just run fiber into the country. Can they not run fiber in the air like the old analog telephone lines? I guess I need to get a book on fiber. I am wading into waters I have very little knowledge of.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Out in more rural areas it takes a very long time to recoop their cost. I live in Montana where even in town the amount of people per mile is rather limited. In the country you would have to run 6 miles of cable for as many connections if not less. Even in town you might get 100 people per mile, if that. In a larger city you are getting 1000's per mile. Then the distance between large towns is measured in hours out here. You can drive 8 hours and not leave the state.

GunsAblazin said:

Well yeah, why would they move from the city to the country for Google Fiber alone. That doesn't make any sense. But your missing the point. If Google Fiber was available in the country areas it might encourage more people to move into the country. So they aren't moving out to the country "for" Google Fiber as you so stated. They are moving out to the country because they wouldn't have to give up what they already have. That was my point.

I moved from the country to the city after 3 years because there was no high-speed internet and Google Fiber was/is coming to my city. I may be the exception to the rule. But I find it hard to function without high-speed internet these days.

Thanks for the info with regards to infrastructure though. It makes a little more sense to me now in spite of not having all the details.

That was in response to your statement; 'In other words, "Build it, and they will come".'

The market/population density comes first, then comes development.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Your statement about people in the country deserving high-speed internet is somewhat confusing. The first universal assumption you appear to be making is that everyone in the country is of the "less fortunate" class. Which I doubt is the case. The country has the rich and the poor just like the city.

If they want Google Fiber bad enough they will sell their home and move to the city like I did.

I still think it would be easier to just run fiber into the country. Can they not run fiber in the air like the old analog telephone lines? I guess I need to get a book on fiber. I am wading into waters I have very little knowledge of.

Aha! I see you are jumping to conclusions. You automatically assume I'm American & live in America. Read my profile. This strategy of Google's is almost perfect for us as you seem to know little about my country. I am one of the more fortunate citizens

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

What about sky pollution? Will we always have a balloon visible in the sky?

What about aircraft safety?

I can't answer the 1st two questions yet but if you're ever in the unfortunate position of being in an air disaster, maybe you could quickly bail out in the hopes there's a balloon floating right under you, you could grab onto & hold on until rescue arrives. You never know your luck.

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