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FCC approves 30 Project Loon balloons for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

Project Loon
Project Loon (Image credit: Android Central)

According to Wired, the FCC gave permission for 30 Project Loon balloons to fly over Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for up to six months.

Project Loon is the name for Alphabet's (Google's parent company) ambitious project that provides cellular data capabilities from above. With thousands of cell towers decimated by Hurricane Maria, the balloons would provide needed communications for both affected residents and relief efforts.

Earlier this year, Project Loon was deployed to Peru after a series of devastating floods. Alphabet worked with Peruvian network Telefonica to help pass a signal to the ground and allocate the correct spectrum and services. In Puerto Rico, things are still in the planning stages. An Alphabet spokesperson told Wired:

Things are a little more complicated because we're starting from scratch. Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner's network—the balloons can't do it alone.

Loon balloons work by "relaying communications between Alphabet's own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks, and users' handsets." Wired reports that eight regional wireless carriers in Puerto Rico have approved of the arrangement, so it looks like plans are off to a good start.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

20 Comments
  • Fantastic use of this tech!
  • Agree. This is what every big company should try to do. Something very useful and not just selling phones and making billions.
  • Every big company should buy big balloons?
  • ^embarrassment to humanity
  • Of course, balloons are cool
  • I'm so glad they are doing this. I can hardly talk to my family because he calls keep dropping whenever they have a bit of signal.
  • Great job Google, good on you guys. 👏
  • 👍
  • Google offers to use Loon to help with communication.
    Tesla offers battery packs and solar cells to help with power.
    Trump throws paper towels at the peasants and pats himself on the back.
    Something is seriously screwed up about this country's leadership
  • Private sector vs big government. I know which one I prefer. Before someone responds with ,"they are both intertwined", yeah somewhat, but when the rubber meets the road the private sector and good old fashioned American know how will come through.
  • For flashy (and useful; I don't want to take away from how good this is) and quickly-deployed stuff like this, absolutely. But when it comes to the months- and years-long process of fully rebuilding the infrastructure of a large, devastated area? Private companies aren't going to do that, and shouldn't be expected to as far as I'm concerned.
  • Oh I agree, long term rebuilding should be the government's responsibility. There are some things short term , the private sector just does better and more efficient.
  • He pats himself on the back *with his tiny hands*... Can't forget this little (pun intended) detail
  • The tech companies are really stepping up...Tesla is saying they could build out Puerto Rico's entire power grid with solar power....and now balloon power cellular service???.....that's so dope!!!......technology truly is the water marker in human civilization
  • Glad to hear see Google and Tesla stepping up to help. Hopefully more companies come forward because I have 0 faith in the federal government.
  • Thank you for doing this for my country who badly needs it now. Ian B
  • My friend, you and I are in the same country. Some of us here in the lower 48 haven't forgotten that. You stay safe, and I wish you the best.
  • Brilliant good will by Google. As part of infrastructure rebuild power lines must be buried.... Obviously impossible for mobile technology.
  • Gracias, to all and everyone trying to help us recover from the devastating effects of María. We in Puerto Rico appreciate it!
  • Interesting, glad they are helping out in these kinds of ways.