Getting Connected

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IN THE DARK: Nearly half of Puerto Rico’s residents still lacked power months after Hurricane Maria hit.

Months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last September, many residents still lack food, clean water, and electricity. The storm destroyed much of the U.S. territory’s infrastructure, leaving people without cell phone service or access to the internet. Now a network of hi-tech balloons, called Project Loon, is helping restore communications to people on the hard-hit island.

COURTESY OF PROJECT LOON

LIFTOFF: A Project Loon balloon heading to Puerto Rico is launched in Nevada.

Project Loon is made up of a fleet of 15 meter (49 foot)-wide balloons, which soar up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) above Earth—about twice as high as commercial airlines fly. The balloons’ solar-powered antennas allow them to communicate with one another and with antennas on the ground. That increases the area where people can receive internet service. So far, Project Loon has provided more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans with a wireless connection.