Network of balloons could provide web access to remote regions of Earth

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - Google is working on its vision for the future, "Project Loon."  Last week, Google launched two dozen balloons into the skies over New Zealand.  The balloons are equipped with wireless technology that beam signals to and from ground stations that connect to local internet infrastructure.

The balloons provide wireless internet access at 3-G speeds or better to people on the ground within a 24 mile radius of a balloon.  Each balloon has a solar panel that powers a fan to pump air into the balloon to increase altitude when necessary.

The balloons were launched 12 miles up into the stratosphere.  That's higher than airplanes and weather patterns, meaning the balloons will likely not be disturbed.  The network of balloons could prove to be vital during natural disasters which normally knock out electricity and disrupt communications.

Google has not revealed the cost for the pilot project or how much a global network of balloons might cost.  Project Loon is still years away from completion.

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