Wider benefits of Project Loon to be explained

07 November 2014

A UC postgraduate student will present his project findings to industry in Christchurch later this month following his research into the potential benefits of Project Loon.

A University of Canterbury postgraduate student will present his project findings to industry in Christchurch later this month following his research into the potential benefits of Project Loon, a Google X undertaking which aims to improve internet access to isolated parts of the world.

Master of Engineering Management student Jared Lewis has been working on ways for stratospheric scientists to use the balloon location information from Google X’s Project Loon, a project that aims to provide internet coverage to the world’s most remote locations by covering the globe with a network of high altitude balloons.

Project Loon is a network of balloons travelling 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.

The balloons drift for up to 100 days at altitudes between 18 and 27 kilometres which is higher than commercial air traffic. Two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have internet access.

Google X is an offshoot of Google whose goals are to develop major technological advancements. Past projects include Google Glass and the Google Car.

"A pilot test programme of launches from Tekapo were performed last year and provided internet access to some beta testers throughout the Canterbury region. Over three million kilometres have been flown so far," Lewis says.

"My project seeks to maximise the value of the location information produced by Project Loon by evaluating the needs of the stratospheric science community and how those needs may be met by Project Loon.

"This will require interviewing and surveying scientists from around the world to determine their requirements from Project Loon. My project will identify key research projects that could benefit from Project Loon.

"Balloon location information is useful as it allows for accurate wind measurements at fine time scales. The information produced by Project Loon is valuable as there are few existing data sets that provide trajectory information globally on such a scale.

"The information from Project Loon will help improve climate models and provide better understanding of stratospheric transport processes which will provide better simulations of future climate change. Additionally, a better understanding of wind processes will help improve weather predictions."

His project is sponsored by Bodeker Scientific, an atmospheric research company based in Alexandra, Central Otago. Bodeker Scientific specialises in research involving the stratosphere and its impact on climate change. The stratosphere is a region of the atmosphere from 10km to 50km above the Earth.

Other Project Loon research at Bodeker Scientific includes a collaborative project with Google X funded through the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute and also involves University of Canterbury’s Associate Professor Adrian McDonald.

Lewis will present his course findings to industry leaders at the annual Master of Engineering in Management (MEM) event in Christchurch on 24 November. The annual presentation event provides students with an opportunity to showcase their work and engage with the business world.

Course director Piet Beukman says past MEM projects have been influential in the start-up of high-tech companies as well as with well-established organisations.


For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications 
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168


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