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Project Loon

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Obrigado to our friends in Agua Fria, Brazil, for helping us with the latest Project Loon test! Our goal was to try to connect testers using LTE for the first time, and we successfully delivered the Internet to the school in time for their geography lesson.
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One of our balloons has had quite a journey over the past few weeks. It did a lap around the world in 22 days, and has just clocked the project’s 500,000th kilometer as it begins its second lap. It enjoyed a few loop-de-loops over the Pacific ocean before heading east on the winds toward Chile and Argentina, and then made its way back around near Australia and New Zealand. Along the way, it caught a ride on the Roaring Forties — strong west-to-east winds in the southern hemisphere that act like an autobahn in the sky, where our balloons can quickly zoom over oceans to get to where people actually need them.

Traversing the stratosphere is particularly challenging this time of year because the winds actually change direction as the southern hemisphere moves from warmer to colder weather, resulting in divergent wind paths that are hard to predict. Since last June, we’ve been using the wind data we’ve collected during flights to refine our prediction models and are now able to forecast balloon trajectories twice as far in advance. In addition, the pump that moves air in or out of the balloon has become three times more efficient, making it possible to change altitudes more rapidly to quickly catch winds going in different directions. There were times, for example, when this balloon could have been pulled into the polar vortex – large, powerful wind currents that whip around in a circle near the stratosphere in the polar region – but these improvements enabled us to maneuver around it and stay on course. We can spend hours and hours running computer simulations, but nothing teaches us as much as actually sending the balloons up into the stratosphere during all four seasons of the year.

Take a look through our photo album to see some of the specific improvements that have been made to the balloon technology, thanks to the lessons we’ve learned in flight.
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Interested in trying your hand at building your own high-altitude balloon? From April 18 - 21, Loon balloons may have some company in the stratosphere: The Global Space Balloon Challenge is an international project to encourage teams from all over the world to build and launch their own high altitude balloons in order to promote the spirit of hardware hacking and international STEM collaboration. Check out the details on their website -- and we hope to see you at 60,000 ft!
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Happy New Year!  There’s nothing like a new year to inspire reflection on times past. We invite you to join us for a short tour of Project Loon’s technological origins. It’s been an exciting few years and we appreciate all of your support.

We’re looking forward to what we’ll do together in 2014.
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Would you like to help us improve the Loon experience? Project Loon would love to hear from you. We’re looking for folks in rural parts of California’s Central Valley, Central Coast, North Bay, South Bay and East Bay, who are willing to participate in a 90-minute, in-person study.

If you’re interested, please fill out this brief survey: . We’ll follow up with you directly if you're selected to participate.
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I would love to participate. I live on the outskirts of Reno Nevada
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Thank you, +Josh Rogner, for inquiring “How are the balloons made? What material are you using so they last 100's of days in the stratosphere?” Pam, one of Loon’s balloon manufacturing experts, offers some answers by describing both the challenge of making balloon envelopes that last 100 days, and also the diagnostic tests the team uses to get closer to that goal.
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I'm not an expert, but could you integrate a service robot inside the ballon with some "plastic-adhesive paste" (no idea how that would look like) to fix little cuts while the balloon is in air
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Have them in circles
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As winter begins in the Southern hemisphere, many Brazilians are sending paper balloons skyward in celebration of Festa Junina, a festival celebrating the winter solstice. Project Loon was honored to join in the festivities this year with our own balloon launch in the rural outskirts of Campo Maior, where we connected Linoca Gayoso, a local school, to the Internet for the first time.

The vast majority of this community doesn’t have Internet or cell service—but the locals know of a few very specific spots around town where they might find a weak signal. So if you see them sitting in trees, you’ll know why. (In fact, they have a word for this—‘vaga-lume,’ which means ‘fireflying,’ in English—because at night that’s what the glow from their mobile phones looks like.) But with the Project Loon team in town and one of our balloons overhead, the students in Tiao’s geography class were able to get to the Internet from their classroom for the first time as they learned about world cultures. 

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.

Check out these photos for a behind-the-scenes look on how it all came together.
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We recently got wind of a neat supercomputer visualization of global weather conditions. If you click on the “earth” label on the bottom left, and then modify the “height” parameter to 70 hPa, you’ll see what the winds look like at the altitudes where Loon flies. The polar vortex, which has been bringing record cold and snowfall to the US lately, looks especially fierce!
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We’re honored that Project Loon has been nominated for TechCrunch’s Crunchies Award for Best Technology Achievement of 2013. If you’d like to vote, you can do so here.
After an onslaught of worthy nominations, TechCrunch and our partners GigaOm and VentureBeat, are proud to announce the the 7th Annual Crunchies Awards finalists. Go vote for your favorites now!
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Wo it's extraordinary!!!
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Because you gave Cyrus’s first #AskAway about the Loon antenna such a great reception, we thought we’d follow it up with another antenna-themed Ask Away: about great reception! In this Ask Away, Cyrus explains how the Loon antennas are designed to maintain a consistently clear signal, despite the fact that the balloons are rotating as they travel across the sky.  
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Hi I am very interested in the project, I aim doing something like this as a home project and if you gave me some advice it would be absolutely brilliant! I have a fair amount of funding and I have raspberry pi computers! What is the benefit of using polarized antennas

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Thank you +muthu lakshmi for inquiring about what happens when Loon balloons need to be brought down ahead of schedule. Parachuting is trickier at higher altitudes because the air is thinner, so there’s less for the parachute to grab onto as the balloon descends. So why not make the parachute larger? Turns out, the additional weight would require a bigger balloon to carry it, which would then require an even bigger parachute to safely catch that bigger balloon, which would then require an even bigger balloon to carry that bigger parachute… Sam, an aerospace engineer on Loon, explains the engineering that’s gone into resolving this parachute paradox.
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Bonjour je vous saluer vous tous
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The stratosphere may be sunny, but it certainly isn’t warm, and this is one of the big challenges when it comes to designing Loon’s power storage systems. Batteries tend to prefer a more Mediterranean climate (who can blame them?) and so the Loon team has experimented with everything from Styrofoam beer coolers to space blankets to try and keep Loon’s batteries warm enough to work efficiently at altitude. Thank you +Cao Hanwen  and +Richard Attenborough for inspiring this week’s #AskAway with your questions about Loon’s battery system.
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You cannot isolate the balloon's antenna from the radiation, because it would be useless, so,  How do you protect the antenna of the balloon? 
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Have them in circles
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Balloon-powered Internet for everyone.
Introducing the latest moonshot from Google[x]: balloon-powered Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill in coverage gaps and bring people back online after disasters.