Google to use balloons to provide Puerto Rico mobile phone service

A Google Project Loon internet balloon is seen at the Google I/O 2016 developers conference in Mountain View, California May 19, 2016.

Pai said on Friday he was launching a Hurricane Recovery Task Force focused on providing aid to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The need for help in restoring power and communication after Hurricane Maria is great: The Puerto Rican energy authority reported Saturday that about 88 percent of the island is still without power.

Communications remain patchy on the island.

Tesla is also dedicating its services to hurricane relief efforts: yesterday, Elon Musk said that he could rebuild Puerto Rico's power grid in the long-term using solar energy.

Alphabet has confirmed it plans to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to support the restoration of "limited communications capability" in the United States unincorporated territory.

Separately, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said in a Twitter posting late on Friday that he had a "great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight".

Just last week, the Loon team said it was looking into helping Puerto Rico, still devastated by Hurricane Maria, regain connectivity.

Musk said he was diverting resources from a semi-truck project to fix Model 3 bottlenecks and "increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas".

At the time, they noted that deploying to Puerto Rico would be harder than their previous emergency deployment to Peru as they did not have existing infrastructure in place.

In Puerto Rico, Google's innovation lab, X, is starting from scratch.

When the balloons are floating in the air above the correct spot, ground stations send signals up to the balloon and the balloon sends signal down to the ground so people with a mobile phone can connect to the internet.

  • Eleanor Harrison