Internet connectivity company, Loon and the government of Uganda announced the launch of balloon-powered internet connectivity in Kenya – allowing Loon to operate in the stratosphere above the country. Loon is a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
The agreement was signed in Kampala with representatives from Loon and the Uganda Government. Loon is working collaboratively with other regional governments, including Kenya and Tanzania, to secure overflight approvals to provide service on the continent.
Accor5ding to the company, it has many similar overflight agreements around the world and within Africa. Permissions to operate above a country are critical to Loon’s ability to extend internet access to rural and remote populations that lack adequate mobile internet service.
Connectivity from above the clouds
Loon balloons operate in Earth’s stratosphere, 20km above sea level. This is twice as high as commercial aircraft, and well above ground-based weather events. The balloons are launched from the United States and navigate wind currents in the stratosphere to reach the desired location.
When a balloon is ready to be taken out of service, it is navigated to a sparsely populated landing area and the helium keeping it aloft is released. A parachute deploys to control the descent, and the flight vehicle lands at a low speed for a soft landing. Once on the ground, specially-trained recovery teams collect the balloon and payload for analysis and recycling.
“Loon is grateful for the approval that the Uganda government has given as we prepare to provide service in Kenya and beyond. These permissions are critical as we work to advance our mission of connecting people everywhere,” says Loon Head of Government Relations, Anna Prouse.
Edited by Jenna Delport
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