Google's Project Loon, launched this year, is an ambitious project that aims to deliver Internet access to people who live in remote locations. It uses high-altitude balloons, which are placed in an altitude around 20 km (12 miles) in order to build a giant wireless network.
Wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is used to control and maneuver the balloons from the ground, in order to always keep their altitude adjusted. The Californian company began to test the balloons in June 2013 by launching 30 balloons in New Zealand and about 50 users were able to test the connections using special antennas. For Google, the next step is to launch 300 balloons around the World, in the 40th parallel south area, in order to provide coverage to New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Argentina.
In a similar fashion, the Brazilian Government recently started to test a similar technology, in order to obtain the same goals. Named "Projecto Conectar" (meaning Project Connect), this project is part of a bigger program called Plano Nacional de Banda Larga (meaning National Broadband Plan), which aims to provide broadband access to people, institutions, businesses and civil societies which still have no access to this service.
This first test using a smaller balloon happened in the middle of November. It was hoisted to 240 meters high (0.15 miles) and has been kept attached to a vehicle on land. Through its link, two videoconferences were performed. The first one to a 2.5 km (1.56 miles) distance and the other one to a 30 km (18.7 miles) distance. Both the Ministers of Inovation and Tecnology, Marco Antonio Raupp, and Communications, Paulo Bernardo, were present in the testing ceremony. In the picture below, Paulo Bernardo (right) takes part in one of the videoconferences:
Even though all the parties were satisfied with the results from this first test, Projecto Conectar still has a long way to go. The main problem seems to be related to the time span during which the balloons remain in the skies, since right know they can only hold for a week. If the goal is to build a somewhat permanent network, this time span is simply unbearable. Despite these minor setbacks, this is yet another example on how Brazil is investing in the technological development of the country.