Project Loon balloons, from Google's Alphabet, to aid Puerto Rico

Project Loon balloons, from Google's Alphabet, to aid Puerto Rico

The giant balloons, which look like jellyfish, are actually solar-powered internet-transmitting balloons, filled with lighter than air gas.

In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Loon balloons work by "relaying communications between Alphabet's own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks, and users' handsets". The company, along with Microsoft and others, backs the NetHope consortium, which specializes in setting up post-disaster communication networks and has field teams now operating in Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands. "It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure", said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. It was only days after Hurricane Irma, another devastating hurricane, had hit the US. The company deployed balloons to Peru earlier this year after flooding destroyed homes and displaced thousands of people in that country.




Mr Musk said the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago.

After setting up a network on the island of Vieques, off the main island of Puerto Rico, one team watched from a roof as local residents started getting text alerts from family members who had been trying to get in touch.

In 2016, a test site was set up in Puerto Rico to launch what the project called "a handful of test balloons". As most of the smartphones are not capable of transcoding Band 8 LTE signals, the OEMs are necessarily required to push an OTA update for every smartphone in Puerto Rico. Musk is in talks with Ricadro Rossello, the island's governor, about what could be done.

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