Solar-Powered Balloons Sent To Puerto Rico To Connect Them To Cell Service

Solar-Powered Balloons Sent To Puerto Rico To Connect Them To Cell Service
User Avatar
Updated 9 months ago

Puerto Rico continues to slowly recover from Hurricane Maria's severe hit. Much of the power remains off for the island territory, meaning that cell phone coverage is limited. One innovative company hopes to drastically increase that low coverage with balloons equipped with tower-like connection gear to reach all parts of the devastated island.

According to Wired, over 80 percent of cellular coverage remains out all over Puerto Rico. Some parts of the population in more urban areas have the ability to make calls and send texts, but much of the territory is still struggling to get in contact with friends and family. Just over 25 percent of wired telephone communication is still out and two of the four fiber optic services are struggling to get back up.

X, an innovation lab within Alphabet, is hoping to improve coverage by launching a series of large balloons that would be able to connect citizens back online. Called “Project Loon,” these solar-powered balloons would generate enough energy to provide a mobile network in the sky. They’ll be teaming up with local carriers and it will be temporarily activated from now until April 4th, 2018.

Project Loon is ready to go, as it’s actually been in development for years. Initial testing on the product began far back in 2014 in New Zealand and Brazil. More recently, they deployed a trial run in Sri Lanka in February 2016. Over in Peru, storms and massive flooding knocked out lots of communication in the area. Teamed up with Telefonica, these were able to provide internet to many citizens. Now, they're hoping the same works in Puerto Rico.

The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given Alphabet an experimental license. They’ve also received consent from Puerto Rico’s carriers to use the 900MHz band in the network. These balloons will be floating roughly 12 miles high in the sky and aim to reach as much of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as possible. According to the FCC, only the major county of San Juan has at least 40 percent of their cell sites back online.

“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 told ZDNet. "That's why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island. Project Loon is one such approach. It could help provide the people of Puerto Rico with access to cellular service to connect with loved ones and access life-saving information.”

Even though some areas have service in the territory, the network is, understandably, very congested and connection isn’t consistent. The infrastructure continues to slowly improve after taking a massive hit from the hurricanes, so being able to temporarily help with balloons that provide more coverage would be a major improvement.

RecircNewsScientists Discover Thriving Coral Reefs Under Oceanic Volcanoes

Researchers from marine life advocates Oceana have discovered a surprising new world under the sea near Sicily.

By Aimee Lutkin
3 days ago
RecircNewsSweden Is On Track To Reach Its Green Energy Goals A Decade Early

Sweden's aggressive target of generating over 40 terawatt-hours of renewable energy by 2030 could be reached nearly a decade early. A massive amount of wind power projects could hit a snag in market value with subsidies, but SWEA could push to close those up by the end of the year.

By Brian Spaen
4 days ago
RecircNewsStarbucks Announces Plan To Ban Straws From All Stores

Starbucks is ramping up its sustainability efforts with a plan to eradicate the use of plastic straws in its assembly line.

By Aimee Lutkin
5 days ago
RecircNewsThis Vegan Ice Cream Is Made Out Of Avocados

Cado is the world's first ice cream created with a creamy avocado base. There's no dairy or nuts added, no artificial ingredients come along with the various flavors they offer, and the product is completely organic.

By Brian Spaen
1 week ago
Stay Green
Sign up for our newsletter