The various Internet companies such as Google and Facebook need to get the rest of the world’s population on their services. Therefore, they are investing in ideas on how to do that. It used to require a lot of infrastructure such as phone cables to connect people with telecommunications but times have changed. The same technology that has been miniaturizing smart phones is also miniaturizing the nodes required to connect them to the Internet.
Facebook wants to be as cool as Google. Google wants to be the most innovative tech firm in history. Both are aiming to deliver internet access to the world’s offline billions—one with balloons, the other with drones. But what about dirigibles?
The maker of commercial satellites knows well the cost of putting hardware into orbit. So what about something a little lower and cheaper? Enter StratoBus, an autonomous dirigible designed to lug 200 kilogram payloads into the stratosphere.
At 20 kilometers, StratoBus would operate above commercial airliners and below space divers (see Felix Baumgartner). Sunlight would bathe the 70- to 100-meter dirigible’s solar panels all day, while its energy storage system would get it through the night—powering its instruments and twin propellers.
Here’s a video.
Two things make this nearly practical. First is the miniaturization and reliability of communications technology. Second is the explosion in drone technology. This is also in keeping with my observation that the Internet is going to empower creative people.
If these companies succeed in their plan to connect the rest of the world the implications for education will be profound. Billions more ideas will flood onto the net. With translation technologies these ideas will be accessible to everyone. This will increase the rate of innovation many times. It will also be put a mass of people online who will want to learn things. This is a vast market for any education provider who wants to enter it.