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Photo courtesy X

NEVADA CITY, Calif. July 6, 2017 – On Monday, reports of a shiny object in the skies over Nevada County prompted speculations about its origin. A check of our flight tracker revealed it was HBAL187, a balloon used by Project Loon.

End of Peru mission for HBAL187

A spokesperson for Project Loon shed some light on the balloon and its mission : “I can confirm this was a Project Loon balloon. Our hope with Project Loon is to deliver Internet access to rural, remote, and underserved parts of the world. This particular balloon had been providing service in Peru and after more than 100 days of flight was about to be recovered by a trained recovery team and brought back to our labs in California so that our engineers can learn more about its flight.”

Recovering balloons in the Peruvian desert

Project Loon recently delivered basic internet connectivity to tens of thousands of people in flood-affected zones in Peru — the first time that balloon-powered internet has connected so many people. During the worst of the floods, they partnered with the Peruvian government, telco Telefonica, and others to deliver more than 160 GB of data —  enough data to send and receive around 30 million WhatsApp messages, or 2 million emails. Read more in this post from Loon lead Alastair Westgarth, and get a firsthand glimpse of what the flooding has been like in this post from operations team member, Erik Gore. X is continuing to provide service in these areas.

There are no plans at this time to start delivering service in the U.S.

About Project Loon

Project Loon is a system of balloons, carried by winds in the stratosphere, designed to beam Internet access to rural, remote and underserved areas down on earth below at speeds similar to today’s LTE networks. Project Loon is part of X (formerly Google[x], which is an innovation lab within Alphabet.