Mon, Oct 09, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Google Balloons allowed in Puerto Rico

AFP, NEW YORK

Google’s parent company is set to launch balloons into the Caribbean skies in an attempt to restore telephone networks in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Alphabet, which controls Google, obtained authorization from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy the devices — developed from 2013 as part of a project known as “Loon.”

It aims to temporarily re-establish Puerto Rico’s cellular network — where 83 per cent of cell sites were still out of service on Friday, according to FCC figures.

“More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

“That’s why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island,” he added, urging telecoms to “cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort’s chances of success.”

Loon, part of a series of futuristic projects out of Alphabet’s “X” laboratory, was originally created to provide Internet coverage in under-developed rural areas. A similar project using drones was closed down last year.

The balloons are sent 20km above the Earth’s surface, where they can remain autonomously for more than 100 days. They are made from a polyethylene canvas the size of a tennis court.

Initially designed to drift, the balloons are now equipped with navigation systems.

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