Project Loon-Powered Internet Reaches 100K in Puerto Rico


The firm is working with AT&T and T-Mobile to successfully deliver basic internet to remote areas of Puerto Rico where cellphone towers were knocked out by Hurricane Maria. They've so far brought 72 percent of Puerto Rico's telecommunication services back online. And initially, the team behind Project Loon wasn't sure how well the technology might work. At the same time, it announced that T-Mobile customers, in addition to AT&T subscribers, could connect to Loon.

It's the first time the balloons have been launched at such a rapid pace.

It's been almost two months since Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, and the island is still in the midst of a long road to recovery.

Two weeks later the service was up and running with balloons launched from a site in Nevada being navigated to the island. Facebook, Tesla, and Cisco had promised to support the people during the disaster.

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 hard time".

The balloons are designed to hover 11 miles above the Earth to create an aerial wireless network.

Winds in the stratosphere are stratified, and each layer of wind varies in speed and direction, so Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go.

The balloons harness power from card table-sized solar panels that dangle below them, and they can gather enough charge in four hours to power them for a day. People on the ground can then access the internet using LTE-connected devices.

In addition to Project Loon, telecommunication providers have been working to fix damaged cellular sites and towers on the ground.