Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world's population does not yet have Internet access. Project Loon is 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. 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. Google's pilot test began in June of 2013 over New Zealand. Our report today covers three new patent applications that were recently published by the US Patent Office regarding varying aspects of Google's Project Loon.
Google Seeks New Patents Relating to Project Loon
Computing devices such as personal computers, laptop computers, tablet computers, cellular phones, and countless types of Internet-capable devices are increasingly prevalent in numerous aspects of modern life. As such, the demand for data connectivity via the Internet, cellular data networks, and other such networks, is growing. However, there are many areas of the world where data connectivity is still unavailable, or if available, is unreliable and/or costly. Accordingly, additional network infrastructure is desirable.
This is where Google's Project Loon comes into play. In November 2013 we covered one of the first patent applications related to this project covering the some of the basics such as a high-altitude balloon network, an example balloon configuration, Super-Node Balloons and Projected Change in Bandwidth.
In Google's most recent round of patents related to Project Loon, they cover such matters as Geo-Fencing, Incentivized Recovery of Balloon Materials and Balloon Altitude Control Using Density Adjustment and/or Volume Adjustment.
Patent One: Geo-Fencing
According to Google, their geo-fencing invention relates to a balloon which includes a cut-down device, a payload, and an envelope. A control system could be configured to determine a position of the balloon with respect to a predetermined zone. The cut-down device could be operable to cause at least the payload to land in response to determining that the position of the balloon is within the predetermined zone. The predetermined zone includes an exclusion zone and a shadow zone.
The shadow zone could include locations from which the balloon would be likely to drift into the exclusion zone based on, e.g., historic weather patterns or expected environmental conditions. Boundaries of the shadow zone could be determined based on, for example, a probability of the balloon entering the exclusion zone.
Google's patent FIG. 5A noted below illustrates an overhead view of a balloon operation scenario at a first time, according to an example embodiment; patent FIG. 5B illustrates an elevation view of the balloon operation scenario at the first time.
Google's patent FIG. 5C noted below illustrates an elevation view of a balloon operation scenario at a second time, according to an example embodiment; patent FIG. 5D illustrates an elevation view of a balloon operation scenario.
Patent Two: Incentivized Recovery of Balloon Materials
According to Google, their invention relates to methods and systems involving an incentivized recovery of balloon materials. An example system may be configured to: (a) determine a landing location of a balloon, where the balloon has been configured to operate as a node in a balloon network; (b) detect a removal event corresponding to the balloon ceasing to operate as a node in the balloon network and descending to the landing location; and (c) in response to detecting the removal event, initiate a transmission of a recovery-assistance signal that is comprised of (i) location data corresponding to the landing location of the balloon and (ii) an indication of an incentive to recover the balloon. To learn more of the details, review Google's invention.
Patent Three: Balloon Altitude Control Using Density Adjustment and/or Volume Adjustment
According to Google, their invention relates to a balloon having an envelope and a payload positioned beneath the envelope. The envelope comprises a first portion and a second portion, wherein the first portion allows more solar energy to be transferred to gas within the envelope than the second portion. The balloon may operate in a first mode in which altitudinal movement of the balloon is caused, at least in part, by rotating the envelope to change an amount of the first portion that faces the sun and an amount of the second portion that faces the sun, and wherein the control system is further configured to cause the balloon to operate in a second mode in which altitudinal movement of the balloon is caused, at least in part, by moving a lifting gas or air into or out of the envelope. To learn more of the details, review Google's invention.
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