Technology

Alphabet's Internet-providing balloons flew a record 312 days

Alphabet's Loon has set a new flight duration record of 312 flight days.   | Photo Credit: Loon

Alphabet's Loon, the high-altitude balloons, designed to provide internet in remote areas, has set a new flight duration of a record 312 flight days.

"Longer Loon flights let us reach and persist in places (like over the middle of the Pacific ocean) that are typically hard to remain for extended periods of time," said Salvatore Candido, chief technology officer, Loon.

They also add up to a lower cost per flight-hour, scale cell towers in the sky to connect more people and places.

Loon was launched in Puerto Rico in May 2019. It flew to Peru, and has provided test service for three months.

After that, it floated over the Pacific Ocean for another seven months. The flight system was finally collected from Baja, Mexico, for additional analysis in March 2020.

It was primarily used for connectivity and exploring the massive opportunity in the stratosphere, which represents a multi-billion dollar market spanning telecommunications, high-resolution earth observation, weather prediction and modeling.

"The stratosphere can drive significant growth in the $3.9 trillion mobile technologies and services business by bringing millions of people living in unconnected areas online, reconnecting people after disasters, building out the next generation of 5G networks, and connecting the future of Internet of Things (IoT) devices," Alphabet said in a statement.

The company estimates 3.8 billion people are still without access to the Internet.

Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by carrying cell towers 20 km above Earth, and delivering 4G LTE and 5G connectivity in partnership with mobile network operators, it said.

The stratospheric balloon is already providing its High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) commercial internet services to Kenya, and is expanding its network. HAPS are designed to fly over the edge of space.

They can act as floating cell towers but up to 200 times the geographic coverage of the land cell towers, according to Alphabet estimates.

The company said that HAPS can be operated in challenging terrains and be controlled at will. It can provide emergency coverage in times of outages and disasters.

They can also be refreshed with the latest technology every few months, depending on the mission. Its parts can be collected, analysed and even repurposed when it lands back.

Terrestrial wireless networks deliver high speed data and satellites provide broad coverage across the globe.

However, densely populated urban areas limit the function of satellite infrastructure, while ground-based cell towers are expensive to deploy in remote and sparsely populated areas.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 2:18:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/alphabets-internet-providing-balloons-flew-a-record-312-days/article33040851.ece

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