Alphabet Inc, Google parent company set off flying solar-powered balloons to provide internet service to Puerto Rico. The effort is to provide internet to remote areas of the United States territory where cellphone towers were affected by the Hurricane Maria.
The project loon balloons are navigating using an algorithm that puts them in the best position to deliver a signal by rising and falling to ride wind currents. The balloons called HBAL199 and HBAL237 are said to be flying at an altitude of more than 60,000 feet above land.
The balloons are already enabling texts, emails and basic web access for those with handsets that use its 4G LTE network. A confirmation of more balloons on their way from Nevada has been reached after an authorization by the Federal Communications Commission to send up to 30 balloons to serve the hard-hit island.
How project loon works
Project Loon beams the Internet from balloons circling the earth at altitudes twice as high as commercial aircraft, helping mobile operators extend wireless networks into more sparsely populated or remote terrains without running fiber optic cable or building cell towers. The project has been aided by the Pan-American and Puerto Rican governments’ aviation authorities and air traffic controllers.
The balloons are solar powered and have batteries on board but service at night is limited. Each Loon balloon is able to provide Internet service to an area of roughly 5,000 square kilometers.
Head of Project Loon Alastair Westgarth says the project is still an experimental technology and the company is not quite sure how well it will work,” though it has been tested since last year in Peru following flooding there.
Project Loon has been followed pledges by Cisco, Facebook, and Tesla to send teams to improve communications and restore power. As of Friday 20th October 2017, more than 60 percent of the population was connected to the mobile network, as the company gets more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region