More than 90 percent of people on the island of Puerto Rico don’t have power, and more than 80 percent don’t have access to wireless cell service, according to the most recent advisories from FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission. Without access to reliable power or communications networks, it’s extremely difficult to search for loved ones and distribute critical information about recovery efforts to those on the ground. And at a time when only 55 percent of residents have access to drinking water, getting out information about where to go to find resources can save lives.
And now, executives and engineers in Silicon Valley think they may have some solutions.
On Friday, the FCC gave Alphabet, Google’s parent company, permission to launch its internet balloon project over Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Dubbed Project Loon, the idea is that by flying massive balloons over the islands, Loon will beam down emergency internet service and help get people back online. Loon has permission to fly 30 of its balloons for up to six months over the affected areas.