Google is investing a further $1bn into its ‘Project Loon’ wi-fi project with a fleet of satellites supporting its existing balloons, according to a news report.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the new venture will launch “180 small, high-capacity satellites orbiting the earth at lower altitudes than traditional satellites.”
According to people familiar with the project, it will be led by Greg Wyler, who joined Google recently from the startup he founded–O3b Networks Ltd., a satellite-communications firm.
The project will use small, but high capacity low-Earth orbiting satellites that sit lower in the sky than traditional satellites.
Google recently purchased drone-maker Titan Aerospace to deliver solar-powered high-altitude drones that can stay airborne for five years at a time. The drones, called “atmospheric satellites”, could replace the balloons in Project Loon.
Facebook is also looking to connect unwired parts of the globe with its Connectivity Lab – a direct challenge to Google’s Project Loon. The social network purchased Somerset-based solar-powered drone designer Ascenta as part of its internet.org initiative, which plans to “beam internet to people from the sky”, according to Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
“It’s easy to take for granted that most people have access to the internet, but only one third of the world, 2.7 billion people, currently have access to the internet,” said Zuckerberg in his MWC keynote. “We’re not on a path to connect everyone right now, unless something dramatic changes.”
View this video outlining how Project Loon works below:
Read the WSJ report here