A few days ago, Wired’s Steven Levy wrote about the latest developments from Google’s Project Loon — an audacious and frightening attempt to launch a balloon-drone army high up in the atmosphere.
The plan is to create nothing less than a global WiFi network, powered by hundreds of balloons circling the globe at an altitude of 60,000 ft. Google envisions Loon delivering (and surveilling) Internet connectivity to the poor, rural unconnected masses around the world, not to mention filling in Internet/mobile dead spots in Silicon Valley’s own backyard. Who knows, it might even compete with existing cellular phone services one day.
With the advances made over the last year, Google has a clearer idea of how it might eventually make money with Loon. In addition to connecting the last few billion (and often cash-poor) Internet users, the project might serve already-connected people with fat wallets by partnering with existing providers to deliver a super-roaming experience. “It’s not limited to rural areas,” Teller says. “Even in the middle of Silicon Valley you can lose connections while driving; large buildings and hills can block the signals. Balloons can fill in dead spots.”
If hundreds of Google spy balloons constantly hovering overhead isn’t scary enough, Levy pointed out that the company is working with “former military operations people” in order to track down and find every downed balloon in order to study their failures and improve the reliability of its so far sub-performing balloon technology.
I guess it’s not surprising, given Google’s history of close collaboration with the military-industrial complex.
But I’m curious exactly what kind of “former military operations people” is Google working with? What country? And what military? Or is it private security contractors like Blackwater/Academi? Or maybe the secretive CIA-connected Blackbird Technologies, which specializes in hi-tech tracking and search & rescue missions and has partnered with Google before?
I asked Google for comment but, as usual, they’re not saying a word.