Following the damage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, 83% of Puerto Rico is still without electricity, forcing citizens to live without basic amenities like running water and cell service, which is essential in emergency relief situations. Google’s parent company, Alphabet X, has launched Project Loon to restore wireless service. The company will provide cellular LTE service through the deployment of 30 balloons flying 20 kilometres high.
The operation will need to coordinate with Puerto Rico’s local provider, Telefonica, to provide service. A company representative said, “Loon needs to be integrated with a telco partner’s network—the balloons can’t do it alone…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.”
Last year, Alphabet deployed similar humanitarian relief efforts to Peru, who was the subject of damage due to heavy rain and flooding. But Project Loon is the first time a company will have launched a service-providing project of this scale. One peripheral benefit of Project Loon its foundation as a case study for future humanitarian efforts to provide service. Alphabet’s Moonshot X division plans to learn from the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and expand them to other underserved populations in the coming years.
Alphabet hopes their efforts will help the people of Puerto Rico find recovery, and eventually, they hope to create a safer, more connected world through these types of efforts.