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Google planning to launch hundreds of satellites as part of global Internet project

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Google is reportedly gearing up to build a fleet of satellites designed to bring Internet access to people in remote areas and help fill coverage gaps. It’s believed the company is preparing to spend between $1 billion and $3 billion to realize its goal.

People familiar with the Web giant’s plans told the Wall Street Journal the project will kick off with 180 “small, high-capacity satellites” that will orbit the planet at an altitude lower than current satellites.

The satellite-centered effort follows in the footsteps of Project Loon, a balloon-based initiative launched by Google last June that also has the goal of bringing Internet access to underserved areas around the world.

According to the Journal’s report, it’s possible the balloons will one day be replaced by drones built by Titan – a company recently acquired by Google – which would complement the service offered by the satellites, with each taking care of Internet access according to the type of area. Other reports in the last month have suggested Google’s airborne equipment might also be used to gather imagery for its various mapping tools.

The ambitious satellite project is thought to be under the leadership of Greg Wyler, founder of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks, with engineers from satellite firm Space Systems/Loral LLC brought on board to help make the plan a reality.

While the current proposal is to send 180 satellites skyward, the number could reportedly be doubled at a later stage if the project proves a success.

Internet-providing satellites could ultimately help Google to rake in more ad-based revenue as the company brings more people around the world online. Facebook is also working toward a similar goal, with the social networking giant leading a group of major tech companies in a project to offer Internet access to unconnected locations around the world.

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