The modern world relies heavily on technology, and it particularly relies on smartphones. These devices can only function efficiently and wirelessly if they are connected to modes that produce WiFi or 4G/LTE service. Small modes that can fit in nooks of a home are mostly responsible for distributing wireless service (in the form of wifi) to a short range of devices. However, LTE service is necessary for a wireless device to function when not in range of a WiFi mode. Most of this service comes from satellites that orbit Earth, which are controlled by different carrier lines, such as AT&T and Verizon.
Although these satellites cover the majority of the cellular usage in the world, there are some more rural places that do not get access to the satellites due to cost inefficiency. It is not always worth carriers’ time or money to provide service for under 100 people when they could spend the same amount of time and money and provide service to 1,000 plus people. This is where new technology, such as Project Loon, comes into play.
What is Project Loon?
Project Loon has been developed by a former branch of Google called X. the project makes very large balloons that can carry LTE service and distribute it to people in rural or remote places. Project Loon balloons are the size of tennis courts and are made of a thin, but very durable, polyethylene material. According to Mahesh Krishnaswamy, the head of manufacturing at Project Loon, this material is able to withstand the harsh conditions that are present up in the stratosphere. The conditions include very high winds and temperatures that reach down to -60ºC. (Project Loon).
The balloons are made of four main parts. A remote on Earth controls the balloon’s movements through the flight capsule in the balloon. Solar panels power everything during the day and charge the batteries that make it run at night. Transceivers are responsible for transmitting LTE service down to users’ phones. And finally, a parachute allows the balloon to land safely back on Earth after its journey of up to 100 days. (Project Loon).
Loon balloons not only provide cellular service, but also makes the vital internet widely accessible to many people who would not have had previous access to it. This technology has the potential to soon make the entire globe a wireless/LTE hotspot. Promoting communication, collaboration, and globalization around the world.
Applicability in the Future:
It will help people communicate in times of distress. For example, many islands off the coast of Florida were hit by category 4 and 5 hurricanes at the end of the summer into the fall of 2017. Puerto Rico was one of them, which was hit by hurricane Maria. The hurricane “disabled more than 90 percent of Puerto Rico’s cell towers and left its communications infrastructure in shambles”(Statt). As of Saturday, October 21st more than 80 percent of people still do not have power and 68 percent of Puerto Rico’s cell sites are still out of service (Wattles). This devastation has left millions of Puerto Ricans unable to communicate with the outside world. Project Loon proposed sending some of its balloons to provide cell coverage for Puerto Rico in late September, however, they needed a big wireless company to aid them in distribution of service. The wireless carrier AT&T is currently pending their confirmation on partnership with Project Loon. These balloons will allow Puerto Ricans to be able to communicate via text and the internet and, hopefully, assist in the recovery of the island.
Want to know more? Visit:
Project Loon. Project Loon, YouTube, 24 Nov. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=
169&v=YVhS1axhzRs. Accessed 9 Oct. 2017
“Project Loon.” X – The Moonshot Factory, X Development , 2017, x.company/loon/technolog
y/. Accessed 9 Oct. 2017
Statt, Nick. “FCC will allow Alphabet's Project Loon to deliver air balloon LTE to Puerto Rico.”
The Verge, The Verge, 7 Oct. 2017, www.theverge.com/2017/10/7/16441834/alphabet
-google-x-project-loon-puerto-rico-air-balloon-lte-connectivity. Accessed 9 Oct. 2017
Wattles, Jackie. “Project Loon partners with AT&T in Puerto Rico.” CNNMoney, Cable News
Network, 21 Oct. 2017, money.cnn.com/2017/10/21/technology/project-loon-puerto-rico
/index.html. Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.