Balloons soar in the stratosphere
CASA is involved in a unique Google research and development project, Project Loon.
Using balloons, Google hopes to create a 'network in the sky' to deliver services to places that currently sit off the internet grid or receive poor connectivity, and to provide support following natural disasters.
The balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as aeroplanes and weather patterns, and are carried around the Earth by winds. The balloons change direction by rising or descending to catch a wind moving in the desired direction.
The initial pilot trial of 30 balloons was launched in June 2013 from New Zealand. CASA became involved to manage the issue of the balloons potentially coming into Australian airspace.
In managing the risk of the balloons going in and out of Australian airspace, CASA asked Google to provide evidence of its compliance with Civil Aviation Safety Regulation Part 101.
Compliance included having an Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) transponder, radar reflectors, a parachute, collision lights and independent redundant mechanisms to remotely terminate flight, as well as the capability to provide regular position updates for air traffic management.
The first group of balloons entered Australian airspace over the Indian Ocean on 19 March 2014.
Google has maintained continuous position tracking, with reports available every one minute and accessible by Airservices Australia when required.
More information can be found on the project website at www.google/loon/