Balloon Internet

In 2014, a rural school on the outskirts of Campo Mayor in Brazil was connected to the Internet. Ordinary event, if not for one “but.” Connection was made through a stratospheric balloon. This event was the first success of the ambitious project Project Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet. And after 5 years, the governments of the countries affected by the strongest hurricane and earthquake, turned to Loon with an official request for help in ensuring Internet connection. Cloud4Y talks about how Google’s cloud connectivity has come true.

Project Loon is interesting in that it offers to solve the problem of Internet connection in the regions, for some reason cut off from civilization and the global economic system. This is not necessarily the result of a natural disaster. The problem may lie in the geographical remoteness or inconvenient location of the region. Be that as it may, if a person has a smartphone, he will be able to connect to the network thanks to the balloons designed by Loon.

The quality of communication is also on the level. In February 2016, Google announced the achievement of a stable laser communication between two balloons at a distance of 62 miles (100 km). The connection was stable for many hours, in the daytime and at night, and a data transfer rate of 155 Mbps was recorded.

How it works

The idea may seem simple. Loon took the most important components of the cell tower and redesigned them so that they could be transported in a balloon at an altitude of 20 km. This is significantly higher than airplanes, wildlife and weather. And therefore safer. Loon balloons can withstand harsh conditions in the stratosphere, where wind speeds can reach 100 km / h, and temperatures can drop to -90 ° C.

Each ball has a special capsule – a module that controls the Loon system. All equipment on the ball runs on renewable energy. Solar panels power the system during the day and charge the built-in battery for nighttime operation. Antennas on Loon balls provide connection to ground stations through an extensive mesh network, allowing mobile device owners to be online without using any additional equipment. In the event of an accident and the destruction of the balloon, a hardware module weighing 15 kg descends with an emergency parachute.

The height of the balloon can vary due to the use of an auxiliary balloon filled with helium from the main balloon for climb. And for descent from the auxiliary cylinder, helium is pumped back to the main one. The maneuvering is so effective that in 2015, Loon was able to fly 10,000 kilometers, reaching the desired point with an accuracy of 500 meters.

Each balloon with an area of ​​a tennis court is made of highly reliable flexible plastic and is designed for 150 days of flight. Such durability is the result of large-scale testing of materials for the container (ball shell). This material should prevent helium leakage and cylinder damage at low temperatures. In the stratosphere, where the balls are launched, ordinary plastic becomes fragile and easily deteriorates. Even a tiny 2 mm hole can shorten the life of the ball by a few weeks. And the search for a 2-mm hole in a ball of 600 sq.m. – that’s another pleasure.

In the process of testing the materials of one of the project managers, it dawned on condom manufacturers that they were experiencing similar problems. Unplanned openings are also undesirable in this industry. Turning to their experience, the Loon team performed several specific tests that allowed us to create new materials and change the structure of balloons, which led to an increase in the life of the balloon. This summer we managed to achieve a “run” of 223 days!

The Loon team emphasizes that they created not just another balloon, but a “smart” device. Launched from a special launch pad, Loon balloons can fly to any country in the world. Machine algorithms predict wind patterns and make decisions about moving a ball up or down into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. The navigation system functions autonomously, and human operators control the movement of the ball and can intervene if necessary.

Loon allows mobile operators to expand their coverage where necessary. The Loon Balloon Group creates a network that communicates with people in a specific area in the same way that a group of towers on the earth form a ground network. The only difference is that the air "towers" are constantly in motion. The network created by balloons is able to function autonomously, effectively routing the connections between balloons and ground stations, taking into account the movement of the balloon, obstacles and weather conditions.

Where Loon Balls Have Been Used

“In theory, everything is beautiful, but what in practice?”, You ask. There is also practice. In 2017, together with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration, FEMA, AT&T, T-Mobile and other companies, it provided basic communications for 200,000 people in Puerto Rico after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Balloons were launched in Nevada, and quickly got to Puerto Rico. Thanks to this, it was possible to test some solutions, identify errors, and at the same time demonstrate the viability of the idea.

A little later, the natural disaster in Peru caused massive damage to infrastructure. As soon as a flood occurred in northern Peru, the Loon team sent their balloons to the affected area. Within three months, users sent and received 160 GB of data, which is equivalent to approximately 30 million SMS or two million emails. The coverage area was 40 thousand sq. Km.

At the end of May 2019, a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 again occurred in Peru. In some regions, the Internet was completely turned off, while thousands of people needed to find out about the condition of their loved ones. To establish a connection, the government and local telecom operator Tefónica sought help from Loon to distribute the Internet with its balloons. I managed to fix the Internet within 48 hours.

The first tremors occurred on Sunday morning, and upon request for help, Loon immediately redirected its balloons from Puerto Rico to Peru. To move them, as usual, the force of the wind was used. Balloons caught wind currents in the direction in which they needed to move. To overcome more than 3,000 kilometers, the devices took two days.

Loon balloons spread throughout the northern part of Peru – each of them provided 4G-zone area of ​​5000 square kilometers. Only one balloon was connected to the ground station, which communicated and transmitted signals to other devices. Previously, the company demonstrated only the ability to transmit signals between seven balloons, but this time their number reached ten.

Location of Loon Balloons in Peru

The company was able to provide the inhabitants of Peru with a basic set of communications: SMS, e-mail and Internet access with minimal speed. In the first two days, about 20,000 people used the Internet from Loon balloons.

As a result, on November 20, 2019, Loon signed a commercial agreement to provide services to parts of the Amazon rainforest in Peru, agreeing with Internet Para Todos Perú (IpT), a mobile communications operator in the countryside. This time, Loon balloons will be used as a permanent solution for connecting to the Internet instead of a temporary fix after a natural disaster. FROM

The agreement between IpT and Loon is still to be approved by the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Peru. If all goes well, Loon and IpT are hoping to provide mobile Internet services starting in 2020. The initiative will focus on the Loreto Peru region, which makes up almost one third of the country and is home to many of its indigenous peoples. Initially, Loon will cover 15 percent of Loreto’s territory, potentially reaching nearly 200,000 inhabitants. But the company has already announced its intention to connect 6 million people in rural Peru by 2021.

The successful use of stuffy balloons in Peru over an extended period of time can open doors to other countries. In the meantime, the company has signed a preliminary contract in Kenya with Telkom Kenya, and is now waiting for the final approval of regulatory authorities to begin its first commercial test in this country.

Little nuance

It should be noted that with technology not everything is so rosy. Here is a list of incidents with Loon balls:

  • On May 29, 2014, a Loon balloon crashed into a power line in Washington, USA.
  • On June 20, 2014, New Zealand officials called in emergency services after seeing a balloon crash.
  • In November 2014, a South African farmer discovered a crashed balloon in the Karu desert between Strydenburg and Britstown.
  • On April 23, 2015, a balloon crashed in a field near the city of Bragg, Missouri.
  • On September 12, 2015, a balloon crashed on a front lawn in Hills Ranch, California.
  • On February 17, 2016, during a test in the Gampola tea region, Sri Lanka, a balloon crashed.
  • On April 7, 2016, an unplanned balloon landed on a farm in Dundee, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.
  • On April 22, 2016, a balloon crashed in a field in the Department of Siemboukou, Paraguay.
  • On August 22, 2016, a balloon landed on a ranch in Formosa, Argentina, about 40 km away. west of the capital.
  • On August 26, 2016, the balloon landed northwest of Madison, South Dakota.
  • On January 9, 2017, a balloon crashed in Seyik, near Changuinola, Bocas del Toro province, Panama.
  • On January 8, 2017 and January 10, 2017, two Loon balloons landed 10 km east of Cerro Chato and 40 km northwest of Mariscal, Uruguay.
  • On February 17, 2017, a Loon balloon crashed in Buriti dos Montes, Brazil.
  • On March 14, 2017, a Loon balloon crashed in San Luis, Tolima, Colombia.
  • On March 19, 2017, a balloon crashed in Tacuarembo, Uruguay.
  • On August 9, 2017, a balloon crashed in a reed thicket in Olmos, Lambayek, Peru.
  • On December 30, 2017, a balloon crashed in Ntambiro, Central Igemba, Meru County, Kenya.

So there are definitely risks. However, the benefits of Loon balloons are still greater.

UPD: you can see the location of balloons here (search in South America). Thanks towin for clarifying

What else is useful to read on the Cloud4Y blog

→ Configure top in GNU / Linux
→ Pentesters at the forefront of cybersecurity
→ Startups that can surprise
→ Eco-science to protect the planet
→ Do you need pillows in the data center?

Subscribe to our Telegram channel in order not to miss the next article! We write no more than twice a week and only on business. We also remind you that Cloud4Y, the corporate cloud provider, launched the "FZ-152 Cloud for the price of a regular" promotion. You can apply now.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *