Balloon

Project Loon balloons are designed and manufactured at scale to survive the conditions in the stratosphere, where winds can blow over 100 km/hr and the thin atmosphere offers little protection from UV radiation and dramatic temperature swings which can reach as low as -90°C. Made from sheets of polyethylene, each tennis court sized balloon is built to last more than 100 days in the stratosphere before returning to the ground in a controlled descent.

Equipment

Project Loon has taken the most essential components of a cell tower and redesigned them to be light enough and durable enough to be carried by a balloon 20 km up in the stratosphere. All the equipment is highly energy-efficient and is powered entirely by renewable energy - with solar panels powering daytime operations and charging a battery for use during the night.

Transceivers
transmit connectivity from ground stations, across balloons, and back down to users' LTE phones.
Solar panels
power the equipment during the day and charge an onboard battery to allow for nighttime operation.
Parachute
automatically deploys at the end of the balloon flight for a safe descent back to Earth.
Flight capsule
contains the brains of the system for command and control of the Loon balloon.

Launching

Our custom-built Autolaunchers are designed to launch Loon balloons safely and reliably at scale. Huge side panels provide protection from the wind as the balloon is filled and lifted into launch position, and then the crane is pointed downwind to smoothly release the balloon up into the stratosphere. Each crane is capable of filling and launching a new balloon into the Loon network every 30 minutes.

Navigating

Project Loon balloons travel approximately 20 km above the Earth's surface in the stratosphere, well above airplanes, wildlife, and weather events. In the stratosphere winds are stratified, and each layer of wind varies in speed and direction. To get balloons to where they need to go, Project Loon uses predictive models of the winds and decision-making algorithms to move each balloon up or down into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to provide coverage where it’s needed.

Connecting

Project Loon is partnering with telecommunications companies to extend connectivity into rural and remote areas so that people everywhere will be able to access the Internet directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. Wireless internet signal is transmitted up to the nearest balloon from our telecommunications partner on the ground, relayed across the balloon network, and then sent back down to people in rural and remote areas. Each balloon has a coverage area of 5000 square kilometers.

Recovery

The Project Loon team tracks the location of every balloon using GPS, coordinating directly with the local air traffic control to bring each one safely to ground targeting sparsely populated areas. When a balloon is ready to be taken out of service, the lift gas keeping the balloon aloft is released and the parachute deploys automatically to bring the balloon to the ground in a controlled descent. Our recovery teams then collect the equipment for reuse and recycling.