Project Loon, Google's ambitious plan to bring internet to the entire world by way of a network of high-altitude balloons, is preparing to launch a series of test flights in Australia. The tests will see 20 balloons launched across western Queensland and will be the first to be conducted in the country when they begin in December. Google has partnered with a wireless carrier to beam internet to the ground below — the flights are being run in partnership with Australia's largest telecoms company, Telstra.
Google announced earlier this year that it would join forces with wireless companies around the world to make Project Loon a reality. The search giant's eventual plan is to have carriers leasing its balloons, rather than buying access to spectrum from large companies, but at this stage in testing Telstra is giving Project Loon access to its base stations and a segment of its 2.6GHz spectrum.
The tests will begin in December and will be the first conducted in Australia
The balloons, developed by Google's experimental research and development wing, Google X, have been running trial flights in the US and New Zealand for the last two years, with a few bumps along the way. In the US, a low-flying balloon destroyed power lines, knocking out the electricity supply to a few homes in a nearby Washington town. In New Zealand, a balloon landed at sea was misidentified as a crashed plane, causing emergency services to scramble to the scene. Google's plan is potentially impressive, but it still has some kinks — the company told The Wall Street Journal at the time of the New Zealand test that it was difficult to keep free-floating balloons in one place thanks to the effects of wind.