Access to the internet has enabled a revolution in innovation, collaboration, and education for those with a computer and a connection, but this "series of tubes", while ever-present in the developed world, is still unattainable for two-thirds of the world's population.
But Google has a plan to deliver the internet to everyone, using balloons that fly in the stratosphere and use specialized radio frequency technology to offer internet connectivity to the ground surrounding them using solar power.
"We believe it's possible to create a ring of balloons that fly around the globe on the stratospheric winds and provide Internet access to the earth below. Balloons present some really hard science problems, but we're excited about the progress so far." - Project Loon
The Project Loon balloons, measuring 12 by 15 meters, are carried on the winds at about 20km above the surface of the Earth, and can be directed by ascending or descending to an altitude that has winds moving in the preferred direction. The electronics are powered by an array of solar panels that are situated between the balloon envelope and the hardware, and the Loons are said to be capable of providing an internet connection on the ground in a 40km radius around their location.
"Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter at speeds comparable to 3G. For balloon-to-balloon and balloon-to-ground communications, the balloons use antennas equipped with specialized radio frequency technology. Project Loon currently uses ISM bands (specifically 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands) that are available for anyone to use."
An experimental pilot of Project Loon will begin this month with 30 balloons covering an area in Christchurch and Canterbury, New Zealand, which will help the team to further refine the technology and its real-world applications. (And if you're in New Zealand, you can apply to be a pilot tester here.)
Get the full scoop on Project Loon from Google.