Loon, a unit of Google’s owner Alphabet, which uses high-altitude balloons to provide mobile internet to remote areas, signed a key access airspace agreement with Uganda.
The deal grants Loon overflight rights crucial to provide floating balloon-enabled internet services in neighbouring Kenya, the company said.
The permissions are key to the firm’s ambition of providing internet access to rural and remote populations with poor connectivity from traditional telecoms in Kenya, said Scott Coriell, the company’s Head of Global Communications.
In July Loon announced a plan to deploy its balloon system to beam high-speed Internet access in Kenya.
Ugandan overflight rights are important because “the balloons may get above the Ugandan stratosphere as they provide service across Kenya,” Coriell told Reuters.
Made from polyethylene sheets, each tennis court-sized balloon is designed to float 20 km above sea level, twice as high as the altitude of commercial aircraft, according to Loon. They will be launched from the US and monitored from Mountain View in California.
Loon balloons, powered by an onboard solar panel, provide fourth generation (4G) coverage to under-served areas.
Coriell said Loon was finalising details of flight operations for its planned service in Kenya. “We hope to begin flying balloons in Kenya soon,” he said.
The agreement with the Ugandan government was signed on Monday.