According to Google, contrary to reports, the company was simply conducting a test and was in control of its equipment while it descended.
Chilean authorities had some work on their hands as they had to mark off a section of the land where Google’s Internet-beaming balloon reportedly crashed to the ground. Local press published pictures, which showed crumpled solar panels that served as source of power for the balloons and the balloons themselves formed a heap on the ground.
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A statement by Google, however, says, “This was a planned landing for Project Loon, a project that hopes to beam Internet access to rural, remote, and underserved parts of the world. The balloon that landed on Saturday, April 23 had successfully concluded a test flight and we coordinated with local air traffic control as we managed its slow descent to a rural area just east of Los Ángeles, Chile.”
Investigations are ongoing by the police, but nobody seems to have gotten hurt from the incident.
Project Loon serves to deliver Internet to regions that limited access to the Internet by beaming LTE wireless connectivity to the ground below.
“These days, with our latest balloon, here, we can navigate a two-mile vertical stretch of sky and sail a balloon to within 500 meters of where we want it to go from 20,000 kilometers away,” Astro Teller, head of Google X innovation, said in February. “We still need to lower balloon costs, but last year a balloon made inexpensively went around the world 19 times over 187 days, so we’re going to keep going.”
Facebook has also started a project that is similar to this through its Connectivity Lab. It has a solar-powered drone that flies higher than regular airliners for up to three months at a time, bringing Internet to remote areas of the world using lasers and radio frequency technology.
Another effort started by Facebook, however, Free Basics, has been met with strong opposition from those who argue that it’s a net neutrality violation since it initially provided free access to a select few Web services. Facebook later said any service could join Free Basics if they meet certain requirements.