Turning on Project Loon in Puerto Rico - The Team at X

Oct 23, 2017, 04:01

And, with many cell towers down, people will also still be able to connect to Google's Project Loon balloons that are deployed in Puerto Rico.

Alphabet's X division notes that this is their fastest deployment of Loon from scratch.

Though much of Puerto Rico is still without power, this should enable the now operating cell towers to serve more users at a greater distance.

Project Loon is a network of stratospheric balloons created to deliver internet connectivity to rural and remote areas worldwide.

The Project Loon team has been working with the government of Puerto Rico, as well as the FCC, FAA, FEMA, spectrum partners and global aviation authorities to bring service to the island that was hit by Hurricane Maria last month. The high rise of the balloons allows it to cover more distances than cell towers and connects users to the internet with LTE smartphones.

The team will keep the balloons hovering for as long as possible as they continue to learn how to navigate the constantly shifting winds in the region, Westgarth said. "This is the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we're still learning how best to do this", Westgarth said.

In 2016, Project Loon delivered service to tens of thousands of people in flood-damaged parts of Peru in partnership with the Peruvian government and Telefonica.

The company is sending solar-powered stratospheric balloons to bring connectivity to residents of the island.

For the record, Alphabet launched the balloons from its Nevada launch site to Puerto Rico with the help of aviation authorities and air traffic controllers under the Puerto Rican government.

Since Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain communications services.

At the time, it was unclear if the project would even get off the ground.

Google has now announced that it is collaborating with AT&T to provide emergency internet service to the hardest hit parts of the island through its Project Loon. There are some indications that Alphabet is getting ready to spin Project Loon out as its own independent company, similar to how self-driving cars became its own company, Waymo.

The balloons, which are now being deployed in a post-disaster setting for the second time, typically stay in the stratosphere for 100 days. It sent five planes and almost 40 ships containing network supplies, equipment, vehicles and personnel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and it's continuing to send more assets as needed.