A blimp is a floating airship that does not have any internal supporting framework or keel. The airship is typically filled with helium and is controlled remotely using steerable fans. Projet Loon is a Google initiative to launch a fleet of Blimps to extend Internet/wifi access across Africa and Asia. Some believe that “these high-flying networks would spend their days floating over areas outside of major cities where Internet access is either scarce or simply nonexistent.” Small-scale prototypes are reportedly being piloted in South Africa “where a base station is broadcasting signals to wireless access boxes in high schools over several kilometres.” The US military has been using similar technology for years.
Google notes that the technology is “well-suited to provide low cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure, and for expanding coverage of wireless broadband in densely populated urban areas.” Might Google Blimps also be used by Google’s Crisis Response Team in the future? Indeed, Google Blimps could be used to provide Internet access to disaster-affected communities. The blimps could also be used to capture very high-resolution aerial imagery for damage assessment purposes. Simply adding a digital camera to said blimps would do the trick. In fact, they could simply take the fourth-generation cameras used for Google Street View and mount them on the blimps to create Google Sky View. As always, however, these innovations are fraught with privacy and data protection issues. Also, the use of UAVs and balloons for disaster response has been discussed for years already.