The New Zealand isles, used for Google's project Loon

Source: Wikimedia Commons

UFO sightings seem to happen every day. Over the last year people have been reporting shiny balloon shaped UFOs floating in the sky over their cities. These sightings are leaving people completely baffled, even the United States government claims to not have any knowledge of what these objects are or where they came from. Now it has been reported that Google (to no one’s surprise) not only knows about these so called UFOs but is responsible for putting them there. It’s all part of what originally was a very top secret experiment under the label of Google Project X but has now become declassified and known simply as Project Loon. This ambitious project uses solar powered balloons floating on the edge of the stratosphere to provide wireless internet in difficult to reach, rural locations or after a disaster.

What and why?
Currently, only a third of the planet has access to the internet, but that could soon change with Google’s Project Loon. This highly creative endeavor uses a network of balloons 60 thousand feet above the surface of the earth to bounce the signal around the globe (think satellites, but much closer). People back on the surface just need an antenna attached to their building to receive the balloon powered internet signal. Google utilizes an advanced algorithm to determine where the balloons need to be which then navigates the balloon to a level of the stratosphere where the gentle winds are blowing in the needed direction. One single balloon provides service at speeds up to 3G levels to 25 mile area. New Zealand has been tested extensively, and it now looks like Central Valley, California may be up next. So if you see something hovering and shining as bright as a LED over the California sky in the next few weeks – it’s just Google so don’t panic and run for the hills!

Is Loon environmentally green?
Project Loon has some potential green benefits to the planet as well. Think of the nearly 5 billion people in the world who currently do not have internet access readily available – many of them are in areas where it is either too expensive or not geographically possible to lay down mile upon mile of fiber cable which could potentially save an extensive amount of resources and remove the necessity of digging up the earth to place cable. Additionally, instead of running on fuel, these balloons gather enough energy in about 4 hours of sunlight to run for an entire day and night.

What it could do for the planet
Aside from the sustainable benefits Loon can provide, connecting the earth’s more remote places to the internet could change the world as we know it. Look how technology has completely changed how life is lived in the developed world over just the past decade. The possible benefits from a connected planet are limitless. Google has also responded to some heavy criticism that these balloons are just another way to spy on us and gather more information by stating that there are absolutely no cameras or monitoring devices on board. Most of the details of the project are openly available now on the internet for anyone to see.

Google is not doing this just as a service to humanity, they stand to make more money (a LOT more) with millions or even billions of new users connected to the internet, however, all of humanity has something to gain from this should it work out to the extent that they have planned. Business could be revolutionized and communication as we know it could forever be changed – again! If you are currently struggling to get internet service, or paying a fortune to use a slow satellite connection – keep your eyes up because the Google balloons might be launching your way in the not too far off future.

This is a guest post by Ashley Williamson, a part-time guest-blogger and a full-time green living enthusiast. She tries his best to combine modern life with sustainability. When she is not working she likes to travel and discover hidden untouched places all around the States.