A South African sheep farmer stumbled upon something odd recently – a crashed balloon filled with electronic components. Thinking it was a weather balloon, he did some investigating. What he found was that the balloon was actually made in the USA, and belonged to Google.
Urbanus Botha found a whole mess of plastic collapsed on his land, and with the help of his 20-year-old daughter he determined what the "Google X" imprint on the crashed balloon signified – by Googling it.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Botha didn’t know what to make of the balloon, especially since it contained several electronic components. His 20-year-old daughter, Sarita, was just as intrigued, and took photos of the balloon on her smartphone, sending them to her brothers John, 30, and Benny, 27. The brothers identified the words “Made in the USA” and “Google X” on the pictures, and so Googled “Google X” and balloons.
“We realized the balloon was part of the Google Loon Project,” Sarita said.
So I guess Botha and Sarita were not using Google's internet.
We first learned about Project Loon (for balLOON or for LOONey, or maybe both) last summer. One of Google[x]‘s ‘moonshot’ ventures, Project Loon wants to increase internet access for underserved areas across the world by putting giant internet-providing balloons way up in the air – as in twice as high as commercial airplanes.
Earlier this year, Google announced that one of its Project Loon balloons had lapped the globe in 22 days, and the project as a whole has clocked over 500,000 km. Google's grand plan is to have a “semipermanent ring of balloons hovering above the Southern Hemisphere by the end of next year or so.
So, Google's Project Loon balloons are going to come down at some point – whether it be by accident of by design. Here's a little bit on how Google goes about recovering its balloons.
This past summer, a crashed Project Loon balloon confused New Zealanders, who dispatched emergency response (including a helicopter) to deal with a reported plane crash.
Image via Project Loon, YouTube