Google to Provide Emergency Cell Service to Puerto Rico Via Balloons

Google to Provide Emergency Cell Service to Puerto Rico Via Balloons

Google to use Project Loon balloons to restore some cell service to Puerto Rico

Though the Loon technology is not entirely proven, it could help speed the restoration of vital communications as the US territory works to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Project Loon - the balloon delivered internet project that started life as part of Google and now calls Alphabet's X "innovation lab" home - has moved one step closer to becoming a part of the relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

More than 80% of Puerto Rico's cellular towers are still out of service more than two weeks after the arrival there of Hurricane Maria, and almost one-third of the island's counties have no service, according to the FCC.

Alphabet has confirmed it plans to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to support the restoration of "limited communications capability" in the USA unincorporated territory. Private companies have stepped up to that challenge, like Tesla sending its Powerwall batteries and technicians (an effort that may be upgraded to building out PR's next grid, given the positive Twitter exchange between Governor Ricardo Rossello and Tesla CEO Elon Musk).

Mr Musk said he was diverting resources from a semi-truck project to fix Model 3 bottlenecks and "increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas".

It could help provide the people of Puerto Rico with access to cellular service to connect with loved ones and access life-saving information.

The company had previously conducted connectivity tests in Australia, New Zealand and several South American countries. Now around 10 percent of residents on the island have power.

Project Loon sends balloons intro the stratosphere - twice as high as commercial airliners - where they are self-powered by solar panels. It's a different story for Puerto Rico.

The project works by ground stations connecting to the local internet infrastructure and beaming signals to the balloons.

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