Google’s quest to provide seamless internet connectivity has turned on a new chapter what with reports of the search giant turning to solar-powered drones to provide internet services at speeds 40 times faster than 4G LTE.
Christened SkyBender, the project is based on data transmission using high-frequency millimeter wave technology. Several transceivers have been built and are currently being put through the paces using drones at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Google is reported to be testing transmission at frequencies of 28 GHz.
One of the inherent advantages of millimeter wave radio frequencies is that it can carry up to several gigabits of data per second which makes for about 40 times better transmission speeds compared to current 4G LTE. Another way millimeter wave can be advantageous is that it opens up a whole new spectrum which should be a huge relief given the state of current mobile spectrum that have almost nearly been used up.
However, millimeter wave radio frequencies also suffer from a major drawback, that of a limited range compared to 4G. For instance, a broadcast in 28 GHz frequency can last just about a tenth of a distance of a typical 4G transmission.
Surely, Google will have to resort to some more tech wizardry when attempting to transmit data from high-flying drones. This includes using high gain antennas, sensitive receivers, and such while also going for phased array based highly focussed transmissions. However, all of this makes for extremely complex systems that are also extremely power hungry.
Interestingly, it’s not the first time Google is dealing with millimeter wave technology, having been experimenting with it for several years now. The last time the company was testing wireless transmission using millimeter wave was in 2014 in San Mateo, California.
Another project Google is experimenting with is Project Loon that involves creating a network of balloons placed at the stratosphere that would allow for data transmission speeds of up to 4G LTE. Google said the aim of the project was to provide internet services in rural and remote regions and allayed fears of the high-altitude balloons posing any risk to the environment or humans.
Earlier, Facebook too had envisaged providing internet connectivity using solar powered drones. The social networking company too had tried acquiring Titan Aerospace that Google eventually ended up buying and is powering the search giant’s ambitious high-speed internet connectivity project.