Google has successfully used one of its giant helium-filled balloons to deliver mobile internet to a school in Brazil.
In the week of the project's one year anniversary, a 'Loon' connected a school called Linoca Gayosa to the internet for the first time ever, and is the first case of Google successfully testing its LTE delivery.
Project Loon, started by Google last June, uses fleets of helium balloons that fly at an altitude twice that of a commercial airliner to circumnavigate the globe beaming mobile internet to rural areas. By next June, Google hopes to have a fleet of 300 to 400 Loons which can stay aloft for over 100 days delivering internet connections worldwide in hard to reach areas.
The Loons can reportedly dish out speeds of 22MB per second to ground receiving equipment and 5MB per second to mobiles.
Google said in a blog post yesterday: "This test flight marked a few significant 'firsts' for Project Loon as well. Launching near the equator taught us to overcome more dramatic temperature profiles, dripping humidity and scorpions. And we tested LTE technology for the first time; this could enable us to provide an Internet signal directly to mobile phones, opening up more options for bringing Internet access to more places."
Project Loon team members install a Loon Internet antenna while the schoolchildren look on. Image: Google
"Project Loon began with a pilot test in June 2013, when thirty balloons were launched from New Zealand's South Island and beamed Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The pilot test has since expanded to include a greater number of people over a wider area," said Google.
"Looking ahead, Project Loon will continue to expand the pilot through 2014, with the goal of establishing a ring of uninterrupted connectivity around the 40th southern parallel, so that pilot testers at this latitude can receive continuous service via balloon-powered Internet."
Each 'Loon' can communicate with other Loons, never straying out of the network and away from users that need their service. The balloons are actually controllable from the ground. "Is it possible to have a nicely spaced out flock of balloons? The answer is yes. Once people could see this was possible, it became a feasible project, not some crazy science project," said Dan Piponi from Project Loon.