Alphabet X's Project Loon Has Provided Internet to 100,000 People in Puerto Rico

Photo: ilitephoto/Flickr
Photo: ilitephoto/Flickr

Project Loon has provided mobile data to more than 100,000 people in Puerto Rico, according to Google parent company Alphabet, which operates the enterprise.

The project, which began as a Google X Lab offshoot, provides basic internet to crisis zones and out-of-network areas using weather balloons. In the wake of Hurricane Maria devastation, Project Loon procured an emergency license from the FCC to send its balloons to Puerto Rica on the US Virgin Islands.

“In times of crisis, being able to communicate with loved ones, emergency services and critical information is key,” Project Loon project lead Alastair Westgarth, said in a statement shared with Gizmodo, thanking AT&T and T-Mobile, which the project collaborated with.


Project Loon also released a video of Pedro Emmanuelli, a “launch specialist” from Puerto Rico, explaining how the operation releases balloons from a launch site in Winnemucca, Nevada, that end up hovering above Puerto Rico.

In a Medium blog post last month, Westgarth admitted, “Project Loon is still an experimental technology and we’re not quite sure how well it will work, but we hope it helps get people the information and communication they need to get through this unimaginably difficult time.”

Former senior reporter at Gizmodo

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Michael Walsh

The picture reminds me of Echo-1, an early 60s satellite for television experiments. Echo was a 10 story tall balloon in low earth orbit used to bounce signals from one station to another, a forerunner of modern comsats. It was the only satellite you could see with the naked eye, and newspapers would publish the schedule of when you could see it in the evening.