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Loonacy? Google’s Balloons To float Over Aussie Outback

Loonacy? Google

Under the deal, the online search market leader will test-fly 20 Internet-beaming balloons in western Queensland next month.

The trial forms part of Google’s Project Loon which uses high-altitude balloons equipped with antennas that can beam wireless signals capable of delivering 4G-like Internet speeds to homes, businesses and smartphones down below, reports The Australian.

Earlier test flights over New Zealand caused alarm when a balloon descending into the sea off a New Zeeland town was mistaken for a crashing light aircraft, triggering rescue services.

In Australia Telstra says it will provide access to its tranche of 2.6Ghz spectrum as well as access to terrestrial base stations so antennas can communicate wirelessly with Google’s airborne balloons.

Google’s project leader for Loon, Mike Cassidy, said the goal of the project was to bring Internet access to as many people in the world as possible.

“In the world today, two out of three people do not have access to the Internet and one of the reasons is because they can’t afford the services or the device on the ground to get it,” Cassidy said.

Each Loon balloon is equipped with a radio transmitter to beam Internet signals back to Earth, a battery, a solar panel, a GPS chip, a small microprocessor to control flight, and a heater to keep the electronics warm enough to operate in temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius.

“The trial will allow us to jointly test the potential of this technology for the Australian environment,” said a Telstra spokeswoman – though with Telstra already claiming to have 98 percent or more of the population covered, it’s something of a mystery who it is aiming a Loon-ey service at, or how the costs might be covered.