It would be foolish to assume that you can achieve anything without some setbacks. On Thursday, the Google X witnessed a setback from one of its most ambitious projects.
The Project LOON is one of Google X’s projects that aim to provide internet (3G LIKE speeds) to the rural areas all around the world. To do so, Google uses web balloons that are placed in the stratosphere to provide wireless internet. One of the project LOON’s test balloons crashed in the Karoo desert of South Africa.
According to recent reports, the crashed balloon was found by a farmer in the arid landscape of the Karoo south of Bloemfontein and Lesotho in the center of South Africa. Urbanus Botha, the farmer who found the balloon, mistook it for a weather balloon that may have crashed from the nearby weather station. He packed the balloon and loaded it into his pickup truck.
“The huge piece of plastic filled my whole van,” Botha said.
Botha didn’t know what type of balloon it was while his 20 year daughter Sarita seemed intrigued by all the electronic equipment that the balloon had. She took some pictures of the balloon and sent them to her brothers. The brothers identified the words “Google X” and “Made in USA” and realized that this belongs to Google’s Project LOON initiative. Botha had initially considered using the balloon as a painting tarpaulin before his sons Googled his discovery and made contact with California team operating it.
An engineer from Google confirmed that the images were of a project LOON balloon and that an official will collect it. Google has also formed a balloon-recovery team to take care of such situations in future.
For those wondering what the fuss is all about, here is some info on Google’s most ambitious project. Project Loon, an initiative by the internet giant aims to extend connectivity to the two-thirds of people around the globe who at present have no access, as well as to disaster zones where local internet connections have gone down.The balloons are filled with helium and stand 50ft across and 40ft tall when fully inflated.
They carry under them a custom air pump system and a small box containing circuit boards, radio antennae, a system to communicate with other balloons and internet antennae on the ground, and batteries to store solar power harnessed by attached panels so they can operate during the night.
The balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as aeroplanes and the weather, where they harness layers of wind to position them where they need to be. The project was launched in California, Brazil and New Zealand in June 2013 and testing reportedly began in South Africa a few months ago.