The left-field Internet beaming balloon project was given a real stress test
Google’s parent company Alphabet is aiming to get tens of thousands of Peruvians online in the wake of damage caused by serious floods.
While Google itself touted a machine learning strategy and released the beta for Android O this week, Alphabet with its Project Loon Internet beaming balloon mission is aiming to connect people living in three Peruvian cities that were hit badly by foods back in January.
The somewhat left-field project, born out of Alphabet’s experimental tech ‘Moonshot Factroy’, uses giant helium filled balloons to float a small box containing equipment in the stratosphere, where they then beam wireless Internet access to a large area below.
The idea is to bring Internet access to areas of the world where connectivity is poor or non existent due to environmental factors, poverty and a lack of infrastructure.
Alphabet had been testing Project Loon in Peru before the flooding hit, but in someways the situation prompted Alphabet to test Project Loon on a much larger scale than planned.
“Loon balloons float 20 km up in the stratosphere and so have the potential to extend connectivity to where it’s needed regardless of what’s happening below,” expalined Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon.
“We’ve been flying balloons over Latin America and running connectivity tests with our telecommunications partner Telefonica in Peru for the last few months. So when we saw what was happening, we reached out to Telefonica and the government to see how we could help.
“Thanks to their support, for the last seven weeks Project Loon and Telefonica have been able to work together to provide basic Internet connectivity to tens of thousands of people who would otherwise not have had connectivity in flood zones around Lima, Chimbote, and Piura.”
Westgarth noted that Project Loon is still providing Internet access to the areas affected by the flood and users of the service have sent and received 160GB worth of data, the equivalent of sending two million emails.
With this kind of stress test in place, it is no surprise that Alphabet will continue to push its work with Project Loon.
But it is not alone in trying to bring Internet access to unconnected areas, as Facebook has its Aquila initiative to use solar powered drones to beam Internet access to poorly connected areas.
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