Last year, Google introduced Project Loon, a program that aims to provide Internet access to the rural and remote areas that make up two-thirds of the world’s population.
The project uses balloons “traveling on the edge of space” that rise and fall according to signals from building antennas. Each balloon in the network travels in the stratosphere high above commercial air space for several months at a time.
The company started out with 30 balloons in a pilot program in New Zealand. Wired says Google wants to quadruple its current figures to 100 balloons in the air for 100 days each, eventually arriving at 300-400 balloons that offer continuous service to a still-unnamed target area.
One of the project’s balloons was mistaken for a crashing plane in New Zealand, according to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal. Last month, Google told NBC News that one of its balloons was “in the process of a controlled landing” when it took out a small number of electrical lines in Washington.
Refinements to the program are now being tested in research flights over California’s Central Valley. The company expects permanent balloons to start beaming Internet to real people within the year.
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