One of the Google Internet balloons under the Project Loon and in partnership with Kenyan telecommunication provider, Telkom, fell from the sky this week raising questions on the safety of balloons.
According to sources within Kenya’s aviation sector, the 130 Kilograms’ internet balloons filled with helium gas came tumbling down after what is now believed to be a technical error in the pump system.
The balloon and its components were recovered by aviation services provider Tropic Air and flown to Nanyuki Airport where it is currently located. The balloon is currently identified as that with flight number HBAL 131 and was launched in Puerto Rico 75 days ago. It’s one of the 3 which experienced technical problems as two others have reportedly drifted towards the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Google balloon fell, picked up in Turkana😬 pic.twitter.com/9T7K6KFxnV
— Nick Mudimba (@NickMudimba) May 9, 2020
While there hasn’t been any safety scare in the operation of the internet balloons, this incident might just change things as Google struggles to provide internet access to thousands who are unconnected.
The balloons under Project Loons are expected to have a lifespan of 180 days as the polythene balloons get degraded with time. They land back in a controlled descent at speeds of 12 kilometres per hour.
Apart from the polythene balloons, the flight equipment is composed of antennas, solar panels, flight capsule which is composed of all the electronics and a parachute to guide the descent. They travel up to 20 kilometres above the earth surface using autonomous navigation.
Currently, you can spot only two loons (Call signs HBAL 130 and HBAL 131) above the Kenyan airspace through Plane Finder.