The balloons began to harden into a shiny pumpkin appearance as they rose above Lake Tepako, The Associated Press
reports. They passed the first test of a lofty goal where these balloons could someday distribute internet to the entire planet.
Google will announce Saturday it has 30 balloons floating in the air over New Zealand. The balloons are there to provide free internet access to disaster-stricken, rural, or poor areas, The Washington Post
This was the culmination on 18 months of work on what Google has named Project Loon
. A pilot project was launched in New Zealand with 50 testers trying to connect to the internet via a balloon. Project Loon's logo reflects its custom designed antennas, which users will use to get a signal from the balloons floating twice as high a commercial airplanes fly. The signal travels from ground based antennas up to the balloons. In the future, the company hopes to use the balloons for cell phone service as well.
If Project Loon is successful, it could allow countries to avoid laying fiber cable, which would dramatically increase internet usage in places like Africa or Southeast Asia, The Associated Press
"It's a huge moonshot. A really big goal to go after," said project leader Mike Cassidy. "The power of the Internet is probably one of the most transformative technologies of our time."
The first person to get Google Internet access through the balloon this week was Charles Nimmo. He was able to have internet for about 15 minutes. Then the balloon transmitting it just sailed past. Nimmo is a farmer and entrepreneur. His first stop on the internet was to check the weather to see if it was an optimal time for "crutching" his sheep. To "crutch" is to remove the wool around a sheep's rear end, he explained to the technicians.
Living in a rural area, Nimmo isn't use to having broadband internet access. He did have dial-up for a while, but he switched to satellite. Now his bills sometimes exceed $1,000 a month.
As far his experience with Google's Balloon Internet, Nimmo's commented that it's "been weird," but "exciting to be a part of something new."