Google balloons take flight over South Africa

Google has been testing a number of long distance balloon flights in the Southern Hemisphere with flights over South Africa.

Dubbed Project Loon, Google aims to provide high-speed wireless Internet accessibility to rural, remote and underserved areas of the world.

Project Loon began with a pilot test in June 2013, when thirty balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island and beamed Internet to a small group of pilot testers.

The pilot test has since expanded to include a greater number of people over a wider area including Brazil, California and now South Africa.

The balloons ascend until they reach the stratosphere, where they drift higher than 18 km (60,000 ft), above the altitudes used for airplanes, with each balloon designed to stay in the air for approximately 100 days.

Signals are transmitted from the balloons to a specialized Internet antenna mounted to the side of a home or workplace, or directly to LTE-enabled devices.

“Web traffic that travels through the balloon network is ultimately relayed to our local telecommunications partners’ ground stations, where it connects to pre-existing Internet infrastructure,” Google said at launch of the project last year.

“We’ve been testing a number of long distance flights in the Southern Hemisphere, coordinating with local air traffic control when we fly over countries,” Google told BusinessTech.

The internet and technology company is believed to have been in touch with the South African air traffic control before flying over the country.

Google would not provide any further details relating to its trial, locally.

“If successful, Project Loon could be an affordable, scalable way to help address the digital divide in South Africa, a large country with many towns and communities still isolated from broadband Internet access,” said Luke Mckend, country director of Google South Africa.

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Google balloons take flight over South Africa