engineering careers  Google receives a license to deploy its Project Loon balloons over Puerto Rico and parts of the Virgin Islands.
engineering careers  Google receives a license to deploy its Project Loon balloons over Puerto Rico and parts of the Virgin Islands.

Google’s internet-beaming balloons are heading to Puerto Rico to provide high-speed mobile coverage after disasters

Project Loon uses its unique balloon network at 65k feet to receive signals from mobile networks on the ground and then sends them onto cellphone users.

A Peruvian trial last year sent 160 GB of data across an area about the size of Sweden. According to the project leader, this is “enough data to send and receive around 30 million WhatsApp messages, or 2 million emails.”

Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. 75% of its phone towers remain offline and power has only be restored to around 10% of the island.

The license from the FCC will allow Google to provide coverage until April 4, 2018.

The helium balloons will provide emergency LTE cellular reception to both the local government and the island’s residents. It should enable the island to not only reestablish communication with the outside world but better manage relief efforts.

Unlike previously projects, when Google and Project Loon arrive in Puerto Rico they will be starting with nothing in place and it is feared that Puerto Rico’s telecom companies may not be able to formally partner with Google and provide any resources toward this collaboration.

In a statement to Engadget, Project Loon said partnership with local telecom networks is critical to success “to deliver signal to people’s devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network — the balloons can’t do it alone. We’ve been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who’s been lending a hand.”

As the situation remains fairly desperate for Puerto Rico and its 3.5 million inhabitants our hope is that this initiative will prove successful.