Peru was recently struck by an 8.0 earthquake, affecting both metropolitan and rural areas. It was the strongest the country experienced in over a decade. The difference between this earthquake and previous events was the time it took to get cell service back up and running for both civilians and first responders, reported Popular Mechanics.
Within 48 hours, affected regions had cell service thanks to Alphabet’s Loon, according to the account. Loon deployed its signature LTE balloons, which the company was testing in nearby Puerto Rico, and worked with both the Peruvian government and Telefonica to establish the connection.
Loon “has taken the most essential components of a cell tower and redesigned them to be light and durable enough to be carried by a balloon 20 km (12.42 miles) up, on the edge of space,” according to the company.
The balloons are made from sheets of polyethylene and are approximately the size of a tennis court. Powered by solar panels and armed with antennas that can connect to ground stations, the balloons can form a mesh network hovering above a region, Inside Towers reported. Each balloon covers around 1,930 square miles (5,000 square km) and has been used by approximately 20,000 people so far.
“The promise of Loon is to provide service to the billions of people who need it every day, not just when a disaster hits,” said Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth. “But an additional benefit to Loon serving users on a sustained basis will be the speed with which we’re able to respond to disasters in locations where we’re operational. We’re pleased to be in a position to respond in this situation, and look forward to connecting more people around the world in the coming months.”