08:02 18 May 2017
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has partnered with Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica to provide internet from the skies in Peru. Project Loon uses tennis court-sized balloons that are 20km above the ground to beam internet access to a wide area below. The connectivity has covered an area of 40,000 square kilometres, roughly the size of Switzerland.
Sal Candido, a Project Loon engineer, said: “So the thing about stratosphere balloons is they’re 20km above us, and they’re way above a lot of the chaos that goes on down on the ground,”
The team had been testing the system in Peru when serious floods hit in January. It was then used to connect people living in three badly-hit areas. The balloons were launched from Puerto Rico and were guided south.
“The company focused on bringing the best connectivity support in these emergency situations, especially in the most affected areas," said Telefonica's Dennis Fernandez.
"It was a complex logistical challenge to attend all the needs in those extreme circumstances”.
Recently, Project Loon announced that it had figured out how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to “steer” the balloons by raising or lowering them to piggy-back weather streams.
Project Loon is in competition with other companies, including Facebook, to provide internet from the skies.