Project Loon To Get Help from a Space Agency

France's space agency has teamed up with Google's Project Loon, the search engine company's project to deploy high-altitude balloons to deliver Internet access to underserved parts of the world. The partnership will provide Google with insights from the space agency's years of balloon engineering experience.

"This project comes at just the right time as we seek ways to bring the Internet to underserved areas," said Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), in the announcement last Thursday. "Collaborations like this bring down barriers and spawn new cross-disciplinary projects. We are proud to be providing our expertise while benefiting in return from the assistance of such a great global company."

In return for providing Google with its knowledge and expertise in high-altitude balloons, CNES will get help from Google in conducting long-duration balloon campaigns. These include such efforts as the Concordiasi program, in which CNES conducted climate research by deploying dropsonde and driftsonde balloons to record weather data over Antarctica.

Meet Project Loon

Launched in 2013, Project Loon -- given that name for the far-out nature of its goals -- is one of several initiatives being undertaken by the Google X innovation lab. Among the lab's other projects are the Google Glass Internet-connected eyewear, the driverless car and the Project Wing plan for using drones for delivery services.

Project Loon envisions the use of a network of balloons in the stratosphere, high above any possible interference from weather or commercial aircraft, to transmit Internet data to antennas or LTE-enabled phones on the ground. Having already flown more than 3 million kilometers (1,860,000 miles) in testing, the Google balloons would support connection speeds fast enough to stream online videos.

Such a network of balloons, powered by solar panels, would be much cheaper to deploy than other Internet technologies such...

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