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Google's 'Project Loon' Takes to the Skies Over Fresno


Tech giant Google has turned to the skies above Fresno as the latest site for a test of an experimental balloon-based internet technology. 

The company posted information about "Project Loon" on its Google+ page on Thursday, detailing the Fresno flight, which took place in late July. The company envisions "Project Loon" as a "network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters." 

Google first demonstrated the technology in New Zealand in June. It says the Fresno test site was chosen both for its proximity to the company's Mountain View headquarters, and its relatively flat terrain. 

The Central Valley is a great location for Loon’s research flights because it is close to Google’s Mountain View headquarters, yet removed from dense populations and air traffic. There are favorable weather and wind conditions and it is mostly flat farmland, which allows us to track and follow the balloons quite easily.

The company says the Fresno flight was important in that it let them test critical components of the system in an area filled with other radio signals, which could generate interference. 

On our most recent research flight we overflew Fresno, a nearby city, to get statistics on how the presence of lots of other radio signals (signal-noise) in cities affects our ability to transmit Internet. It turns out that providing Internet access to a busy city is hard because there are already many other radio signals around, and the balloons’ antennas pick up a lot of that extra noise. This increases the error-rate in decoding the Loon signal, so the signal has to be transmitted multiple times, decreasing the effective bandwidth.

Project Loon's balloons are designed to fly around 12 miles above the earth. The hot air balloons are networked together and steerable. Solar panels provide the units with power and batteries allow for overnight use. It's unknown when the technology might be publicly released. 


Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of Valley Public Radio. During his tenure, he's helped lead the station through major programming changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the station's financial health. From 2010-2018 he served as the station's Director of Program Content. In that role, he also served as the host of Valley Edition, and helped launch and grow the station's award-winning local news department. He is a Fresno native and a graduate of California State University, Fresno.
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  • Rather than relying on cell towers, phone lines, or fiber optics, Google plans to beam 3G-speed Internet to the world's most inaccessible corners using helium balloons. The experiment is called "Project Loon." Leader Mike Cassidy talks about the project's first step: providing balloon Internet to New Zealand and the 40th parallel south.