Project Loon Assisted by Alumnus
CH alumnus and Master of Engineering Management (MEM) postgraduate student Jared Lewis (2010-2011) will present his course findings to industry leaders at the annual MEM presentation event on 24 November here in Christchurch.
Jared has been working on maximising the value of Project Loon to the scientific community. Project Loon is a Google X undertaking that aims to improve internet access to isolated parts of the world by covering the globe with a network of high altitude balloons. The balloons drift for up to 100 days at altitudes between 18 and 27 kilometres which is higher than commercial air traffic. Two-thirds of the world's population does not yet have internet access.
Google X is an offshoot of Google whose goals are to develop major technological advancements. Past projects include Google Glass and the Google Car.
Jared says that a pilot test programme of launches from Tekapo were performed last year and provided internet access to some beta testers throughout the Canterbury region. Over three million kilometres have been flown so far.
"My project aims to maximise the value of the location information produced by Project Loon by evaluating the needs of the stratospheric science community and how those needs may be met by Project Loon," Jared explains.
"We'll need to interview and survey scientists from around the world to determine their requirements from Project Loon. Balloon location information is useful as it allows for accurate wind measurements at fine time scales. The information produced by Project Loon is valuable as there are few existing data sets that provide trajectory information globally on such a large scale. The information from Project Loon will help improve climate models and provide better understanding of stratospheric transport processes which will provide better simulations of future climate change. Also, a better understanding of wind processes will help improve weather predictions."
Jared's project is sponsored by Bodeker Scientific, an atmospheric research company based in Alexandra, Central Otago. Bodeker Scientific specialises in research involving the stratosphere and its impact on climate change. The stratosphere is a region of the atmosphere from 10km-50km above the Earth.
MEM course director Piet Beukman says past MEM projects have been influential in the start-up of high-tech companies as well as with well-established organisations.