A balloon that floats in ‘near space’ – 20km to 100km above sea level – will be launched in New Zealand next year to give billions of people access to the Internet.
Chinese tech company KuangChi Science has been developing the ‘Traveller’ near space balloon, and is working with Airways New Zealand and Pengxin on the launch.
The 1 tonne helium filled balloon is 40 metres in diameter, and can carry greater and more diverse payloads than Google’s Project Loon balloon, according to KuangChi Science.
The advantages of flying in such high altitudes is it's devoid of turbulence, has low air pressure and temperature.
Besides delivering Internet or Wi-Fi access to people on Earth’s ground level, the balloon could also be used for resource mapping, traffic control, shipping communications and disaster relief through to search and rescue activities, KuangChi Science's CEO, Dr. Zhang Yangyang.
"The balloons, which are equipped with transponders and fail-safe systems so their movement and altitude can be tracked and managed, provide a similar service to satellites but at a fraction of the cost.
"The balloons remain in near space with self-generated solar power and are capable of recovery and task reloading," he said in a statement.
"Obviously there are a lot of logistical and aeronautical issues which need to be addressed before the launch which is why we are grateful for the support and advice of Airways New Zealand.”
KuangChi Science is yet to choose a site in New Zealand for the launch of its balloon.