Nice. Google launched Project Loon in Canterbury, New Zealand. Loon is “a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people [to the internet] in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.”
Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. They are carried around the Earth by winds and they can be steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired direction. People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth.
From the NZ Herald:
At this stage, the company is putting a few dozen balloons up over New Zealand and then bringing them down after a short period. Later this year, Google hopes to have as many as 300 of them circling the globe continuously along the 40th parallel, on a path that takes them over New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Argentina.
Covering the whole world would require thousands of the balloons. No timetable has been set for that.
Google chose New Zealand in part because of its remoteness. Some Christchurch residents were cut off from the internet for weeks after a 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people. Google said balloon access could help places suffering natural disasters get back online quickly.