Google to Provide Emergency Cell Service to Puerto Rico Via Balloons

Google to Provide Emergency Cell Service to Puerto Rico Via Balloons

Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc, started Project Loon, which was created to give internet connectivity to people in rural places and is now being used for disaster relief. They are sent high into the stratosphere, to the edge of space, where they float twice as high as airplanes, sailing with the wind currents in small groups.

"We're grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it's possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need". Each balloon can serve nearly 2,000 square miles, and according to reports, that should be enough for service all over the island and perhaps portions of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Project Loon works by having telecommunication partners beam up service to a balloon, which in turn gets relayed across a network of balloons and then directly to LTE devices on the ground.

The island has 3.5 million people, who are displaced and relying on emergency services.

"The objective of the [Special Temporary Authority] is to support licensed mobile carriers' restoration of limited communications capability in areas of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria", the license reads. But in earlier statements to Mashable, a Loon spokesman said the Puerto Rico effort would be "a little more complicated because we're starting from scratch". Now around 10 percent of residents on the island have power.

Tesla's Powerwall renewable energy tech powers smaller islands and its thought that it could be scaled up for Puerto Rico.

"Let's talk", said Gov. Ricardo Rossello in a Friday tweet.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk often takes to Twitter to mull over ideas, but on Friday his musings about sending his company's solar-powered batteries to help restore Puerto Rico's power attracted the attention of the island's governor.

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