Makani and Loon, two of the key moonshot projects of Alphabet’s X division, will be highlighted at IDTechEX, a conference that focuses on energy independent vehicle technologies. Moonshot projects refer to the experiments currently undertaken by X that could be later on commercialized by the tech giant and its partners. The first project, Makani, is an example of an energy positive drone. The drone, which is dubbed as the energy kite, contains the necessary electronics to produce up to 600kw of electricity. These devices fly at up to 250 meters above sea level and are connected to the ground by a flexible material. At that height, the wind speeds are usually more consistent, resulting in improved reliability of wind-generated electricity. The project also aims to make wind turbines more accessible to the public as it replaces conventional and often very expensive materials with cheaper alternatives without a substantial reduction in the amount of electricity produced.
Another initiative that is gaining attention is Project Loon, a venture that the search giant launched a while back. It aims to make the internet available to areas that cannot be reached by traditional telecommunications infrastructure by launching balloons that serve as massive Wi-Fi hotspots or LTE base stations. To construct the balloons, Google engineers decided to use polyethylene, a material that is capable of withstanding the ultraviolet radiation and harsh winds present in the stratosphere. Project Loon has since recorded 19 million kilometers of test flights, which is a testament to how durable the materials used for the balloons are.
When it launched, the project wanted to initially use unlicensed spectrum, more specifically the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands. Later on, Google inked deals with several carriers to allow the search giant to use licensed LTE spectrum instead to provide last mile connectivity. In order to deliver internet connectivity, each balloon contains the essential equipment of a cellular base station. Engineers even included the necessary relay equipment that will allow for point-to-point communication between balloons. Google promises that data speeds of up to 10Mbps using an LTE connection. This may not be the fastest transfer rates available but it suffices for people who live in rural areas.