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Google to FCC: Project Loon Balloons Won't Fry Anyone With Radiation

Google has written to the FCC to assure regulators that the company's "Project Loon" Internet-beaming balloons pose no threat to anyone.
Google / YouTube

Google has written to the Federal Communications Commission to assure regulators that the company's "Project Loon" Internet-beaming balloons pose no threat to anyone — when it comes to radiation, anyway. (A balloon has come down unexpectedly during testing at least once.)

As designed, the balloons would float over areas poorly served by Internet providers, at a height of about 60,000 feet, sending and receiving signals from ground-based antennas. Google is planning tests of the transmission system, and is looking to get out in front of potential objections.

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"Some commenting parties worry that the radio-frequency (RF) energy from Google's proposed testing could harm humans, animals, or plants in the vicinity of the test operations," read the letter (PDF) to the FCC.

"Although we respect that the commenters' concerns are genuinely held, there is no factual basis for them."

Google points out that its microwave antennas will by pointed skyward, rather than toward land-based receivers, and that the powerful signals used by the balloon's equipment are hardly a danger from 60,000 feet away.

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"Even if an airborne transmitter were aimed precisely at a person on the ground directly below it, the signal strength received on the ground would be millions of times weaker than FCC limits," the letter explained.

Project Loon is an ongoing experiment of Google's, and while there are no concrete plans yet to deploy it anywhere, the company hopes to try it out in Indonesia over the next few years.