Google is developing highly advanced balloons to help spread the internet around the world. First announced a couple of years ago, the initiative is starting to take off as the company refines the technology behind the balloons.
There are two main prongs to Google’s approach. One is to eliminate leaks from the balloons as much as possible, which the company does by exploring new technologies and means of handling the materials involved, and by testing the balloons in extreme weather conditions that mimic what the balloons could face in the stratosphere; to that end, Google is even using laboratory hangars frequented by the US Air Force for aircraft testing.
The other prong is to make the balloon launch process more efficient, which has largely been accomplished via what the company calls the “Autolauncher”, a crane that can stretch the balloons while protected from strong winds in a kind of mobile hangar. This has eliminated a lot of the human capital that was initially needed to prepare the balloons.
The whole initiative might sound a bit wacky to some, but the goal is to use the balloons to help transmit Wi-Fi signals to parts of the globe that have hitherto lacked internet access, which could prove both beneficial to individuals living in those areas and lucrative to companies like Google. (The company has also proven keen on delivering faster internet to areas that already have access.) Other major organizations like Facebook have also become very interested in spreading connectivity, and as such efforts proliferate and intensify, many of the world’s underserved may soon find the door open to a whole new world of data and connectivity.