Research And Science Of Balloons

  • A gist about Project Loon

Most of us have the idea of the Internet being a global community, which connects people from all strata and area. There are parts of the world, which do not have access to the Internet until date. Project Loon is a network of balloons that travel on the periphery of the space. It is designed to connect people who live in remote or rural areas and have no access to the Internet. These balloons help in filling the coverage gaps and bring the people to the world of Internet.

  • Project Loon’s past and future

Project Loon began in June 2013 and was in an experimental stage. The experiment was started by a pilot in New Zealand, where a tiny group of pioneers began testing the Loon technology. There were related tests carried out in Central Valley, California and in the Northeast part of Brazil. These tests are now being summed up and used to find ways to improvise the project and take it to a next level.

In June 2013, the test began by launching thirty balloons in the air from South Island in New Zealand. The Internet was then beamed to a small group of pilot testers. Since then, the pilot tests have been frequently carried out and it contained a large group of people widespread in different areas. The future of Project Loon is on the verge of expansion and will continue to grow. The goal is to establish a ring of connectivity, which does not get interrupted by any means. These rings are formed on the Southern Hemisphere’s latitudes so that the testers in these places can receive the signals. The idea is to offer an unremitting service through the balloon-powered internet.

  • Design and Technology

The designed balloons float in the stratosphere, which is the second major layer surrounding the surface of the Earth. The balloons are released to a height, which is two times as high as airplanes and the weather satellites. The reason why these balloons are sent high in the stratosphere is also very interesting. Let us take a look:

  1.  In the stratosphere, many layers of wind flow in various speeds and direction. They have different velocities and the capacity to carry the balloon wherever they go.
  2.  The Loon balloons go along with the wind by rising or sliding down with their flow and direction of travel.
  3.  The project was partnered with the Telecommunication companies, which allowed the scientists to share a common area of the cellular spectrum. With this, people could connect easily to the Internet network and access them in the realm of their homes or other spaces.
  4.   A set-up was designed for the cell phones and other LTE-enabled devices to connect with the spectrum of a cellular network as well. The signal is passed on from balloon to balloon and redirected back to the Internet on Earth.


  • How does the balloon fly?

The law for flying the balloons differs from place to place and the experts follow every applicable rule before the process begins. The Project Loon flies in three major ways. By going through the following concept of Loon travel, you will have the idea about how the entire project functions.

       1. Steering the wind

The balloons in Project Loon travel in the region of the stratosphere, which is 20 km above the surface of the Earth.  Winds in this layer of the Earth are stratified and vary in velocity. The speed and their flow of direction drive the balloons along with it. The Project uses various software algorithms to determine the direction of the balloons. These algorithms direct the balloons by keeping a note of the wind flow and moves in the right direction. This is done to form a large ring of communication network that can be accessed by a lot of people on the Earth.


        2.In the stratosphere

This layer of the Earth is situated between 10 kilometers to 60 kilometers in height above sea level. The stratosphere has a unique scene of atmosphere and pressure, which poses an engineering challenge in operating the balloons via algorithms. The air pressure is 1% as compared to the sea level and offers minimum protection from the sun’s ultraviolet radiations. The temperature swing is so dramatic that it can reach to a minimum temperature of -80°C.

However, the design and technology are so crisp, that it can take the advantage of steady winds of the stratosphere. The strategic location keeps it at a safe distance and does not block the maneuvering of wildlife, weather events and airplanes.

When the balloons land on the surface of the earth, it is tracked with the help of a special GPS system and collected to re-design. The landing points are designed and operated from the Earth. These points can be located anywhere on the globe depending on the distance of the Loon from the landing area. In the initial stages, the waterways are neglected as a point of landing. Nevertheless, in extreme situations, when the balloon lands in the waterways, it has enough gas in it to inflate the parachute and keep floating until the experts collect it. The recovery team will have all the measures to safely dismantle the systems from the balloon and bring it back to its original state.

The entire system is operated with manual vision and also computer controls. The algorithms are crisp and work in effective navigation of the balloon with the wind. The speed of connectivity between the devices and the balloon is estimated to be equivalent to 3G network.


  • A detailed look at the design of Loon

It took a lot of work and dedicated improvisation in designing various stages of Project Loon. With a number of tests and their significant results, the experts were able to demonstrate the look of Loon in the following ways.


A balloon envelope is known to be the inflatable part of the balloon. It is a well-made envelope that can last in the stratosphere for approximately 100 days. The envelopes are made from polyethylene plastic sheets, which are fifteen meters wide and twelve meters tall when completely inflated. When the balloon is ready to be brought back to Earth, the gas from the envelope is completely released. The velocity of descent is controlled from the Earth and the balloon will land softly. In case the balloons are too quick on landing, a parachute is attached to the top of the envelope, which will deploy and offer a soft landing.


       2.Solar Panel

The electronic system of each balloon is powered with the help of solar panels. The solar panel is flexible and laminated with plastic. It is supported by an aluminium frame, which is light in weight and does not block the rays of the sun. The monocrystalline solar cells mounted within the frame, are of very high efficiency. They are designed and fitted at a specific angle, which will allow the sunlight to fall exactly on the solar cells. The energy of the sun can be captured and absorbed even on the shorter winter days. The location of the solar cells creates an array of energy, which is divided in two sections.

The sections face in two opposite directions, which allow capturing of energy in any course with the spinning of balloons. The panels have the capacity of producing power equivalent to 100 Watts, which is enough for the balloon’s electronic system to work even at night.

The movement of balloon with the wind direction and solar charging makes it a gadget, which uses renewable sources of energy. This makes Project Loon a self-charging device and does not fail to function even when the solar energy is low in the latitudes.


        3.Electronic system

A small box is designed which incorporates the electronic system and fitted beneath the inflated envelope. The box hangs in the air and resembles like the basket carried by a hot air balloon. The box contains all the circuit boards that control the Loon’s system. It also has radio antennas that facilitate the communication between various balloons in the stratosphere. There are interlinked with the Internet antennas on the Earth as well. The solar energy is stored in the Lithium ion batteries, which is also fitted in a small box. These ion batteries are the reason for the balloons to operate even at night.

The Loon balloon has all the equipments that will track and monitor the weather conditions to inform the professionals working on the ground. All this information will be used to operate and maneuver the balloon in the stratosphere.


  • Project Loon’s connection

Each balloon released into the stratosphere has an ability to connect with the antenna on the Earth. They cover an area of approximately 40 kilometers in length. The system uses a wireless technology for communication known as the LTE. To use this uninterrupted service, the project has collaborated with many telecommunication companies and shares a common cellular spectrum. Using this system, people from all over the globe will get a chance to connect to the balloon’s internet system. The Internet system uses high-speed links to revert back to the devices with their desired information.


  • Visibility of Project Loon

In extreme weather conditions of the stratosphere, the balloons can be seen from the Earth, but not with a naked eye. By using high-powered telescopes, one will be able to see the floating balloon from the earth’s surface. While flying the balloons, special laws need to be followed so that the system does not intervene with the rules of a country. While the balloon is in the process of ascending into the air, the flight traffic is controlled in the area for a considerable amount of time. This is done to ensure that the system has reached safely into the layer of the stratosphere and is free from any kind of disturbance.


  • Participation in the Project Loon

The scientists working on the project are in frequent need of skilled and experienced analysts who can work to make the balloon better with time. To initiate the process, there are forms available in Google website, which has to be filled. The interested candidates will be contacted by the firm to explain about all the recent happenings and granting an opportunity to work for Project Loon.


  • Association with environmental responsibility

Project Loon is designed to ensure that it does not deteriorate the environmental responsibilities and are safe to the surroundings as well.

  1. The experts are working to guide the entire balloon to a collection point where they can reuse, recycle and safely dispose all the electronic parts of the balloon.
  2. When the balloons are unable to reach the place and desired collection point, the recovery team is sent for their collection.
  3. The system uses renewable resources so that the energy in the atmosphere is conserved.


  • Preservation and encryption of data

The data that is transmitted via the balloon network are preserved and encrypted so that the transfer remains secure for the users. In addition to this, to access the network of Loon the users will have to use Loon SIM cards for an uninterrupted network service. In future, the experts are looking for ways to partner up with many telecommunication companies that will offer better encryption and downloading of data.


  • Expected time of release

The Project Loom is expected to be introduced and made available for people to use in a few years. The expected time of release is not yet determined. The professionals have promised to release the balloon when all the bugs in the system are finished and better electronic system stability is obtained. The customers over the globe can wait with enthusiasm for the final release of the Project Loon. With a successful result from all the pilot testers, the Project Loon is in the race for improvement and fixing all the flaws effectively.

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