Google’s Project Loon still sounds like a crazy sci-fi invention to me, but the project is very much a working technology, gearing up to bathe Sri Lanka in high-speed internet beamed from the skies this year. Of course, Google has to get its balloons up in the sky before any of this can work, and the team has just detailed how it actually goes about releasing them.
Earlier this month, Google sent one of its auto-launchers, known fondly as Chicken Little, off to Puerto Rico for some trials. The launcher is basically a custom built 55-foot tall crane that is capable of filling up, lifting and then releasing the balloons, which measure the size of a tennis court. Google says that the whole process takes just 30 minutes to inflate and release, once the launcher is assembled and set-up of course.
For a close look, the team has provided a selection of images to show the auto-launcher off in action:
Portable launchers are actually a key part of project, as they allow the Project Loon team to pick launch locations with favourable wind patterns and conditions. Once up in the air, Google uses just eight ground stations and balloon-to-balloon communication to provide a large area with full wireless coverage.
Google has already announced that Project Loon will go live in Sri Lanka first early this year, and deployment is also expected in regions of Latin America, West Africa and Asia later in the year.