Engineer, Balloonist Lindstrand: Google Loon a "Waste of Time"
Back in June Google unveiled Google Loon
, the latest in a long line of similar projects that will use hot air balloons to deliver broadband and wireless services to under-served or emergency prone areas. Project Loon will use hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft. Ground base stations set some sixty miles apart communicate with solar-powered radio transmitters affixed to the balloons, and Google steers the balloons using wind as they ride the 40th parallel.
However, avid balloonist and aeronautical engineer Per Lindstrand believes that Google is wasting their time in the effort
. Lindstrand, who has flown around the world with Richard Branson, argues that he told Google it was a waste of time, but they "didn't listen":
"Balloons blow away. Wind speeds at that altitude can reach up to 120 knots, so they won't stay there for more than a minute." Yeah, but surely Google can do that bit where they keep their Loon balloons in the air for 100 days, allowing the custom-built steering mechanism to keep them on track? Another categorical "No" from Per. "No-one has been able to do that before." "Normally a helium balloon at altitude can only stay up for 3-4 days, and if you set off a lot of balloons simultaneously around the world, sooner or later they're just going to collect at the North Pole or the South Pole. They can't stay in position."
According to Lindstrand, the project might work if Google used airships and then used the sun as a power source, though we haven't seen those kind of "blimpband" efforts take off