8 Aug 2013

Google offers reward for lost balloons

11:51 am on 8 August 2013

Google says some of the internet-beaming balloons it launched from Tekapo in the South Island have been lost at sea.

In June, the company unveiled an ambitious plan to provide internet access to the 4.7 billion people in the world without web access through a ring of huge balloons circling the globe.

Thirty balloons were launched on 15 June in the first test of the system to determine whether it could work on a much larger scale.

On launch day in Canterbury, about 50 people chosen to take part in the trial were able to link to the internet. Signals were successfully beamed from another part of New Zealand to the 15-metre diameter balloons and then to the users' homes.

A Google spokesperson says the test has finished and most of the balloons have been recovered, however some landed too far out to sea to be retrieved by boat.

The spokesperson says the company still hopes to find the lost balloons and had offered a reward to anyone who located one.

Google says it plans to come back to New Zealand for a second test launch, but won't say when that might be.

The internet company's plan, named Project Loon, has been in development since mid-2011 by scientists at the Google X research lab, which has previously produced a driverless car and the Google Glass augmented reality spectacles.

The design lab plans to trial the internet balloons in Australia by mid-2014 and also in Argentina.