The Washington Post pointed out this week that the head of Google's Project Loon, the initiative that sends large balloons flying around the world to beam internet signals to people on the ground, admitted in an MIT Review interview published earlier this week that the company is planning to launch the project in the U.S.
From the MIT Review article:
As for bringing Loon to places like the U.S. that are already largely connected but could still use improved Internet connectivity, Cassidy says that will also happen.
"Even in my house, I don't have a cell signal,” he said. “We're going to come to the United States, too."
Responding to the Washington Post, Google said it will begin testing the technology more widely within the next year.
Those who have kept up with Project Loon will know that these balloons have a habit of crashing, and scaring anyone who happens to be around when they do. This has already happened in the U.S., when a balloon that had been airborne for 14 months before Google lost track of it came crashing down outside of Bragg City, Missouri, in April. Locals had no idea what the balloon was until a team of Google engineers came to pick it up.
According to The Daily Dunklin Democrat, the Google engineers told a local sheriff's deputy that the balloons can develop steering issues once they've been in operation for too long. They also gave him a free t-shirt for the trouble.
If that's the policy, it looks like Google has given out a lot of free t-shirts since Loon launched two years ago. Last June, a balloon crashed into power lines in a remote area of Washington, cutting power to a handful of nearby residents. Just weeks later, people in New Zealand, where the project was first launched officially, called emergency services to report an airplane that appeared to be crashing, only to find out it was a Google balloon. In November, a South African farmer found a downed Loon balloon and took it home to use the plastic to help re-paint his old shed, only for his kids to figure out that it belonged to Google. And in March, authorities were called on the scene after a Loon crash in Mexico elicited reports of both a plane crash and a skydiving accident in the area.
Google has said that it currently launches about 20 balloons per day, and it has a team dedicated to retrieving them. The process is explained in a video you can view here.
Considering we've seen at least two of these crashes in the U.S., the company will likely have to beef up its team of Loon retrieval experts when it "officially" begins testing its capabilities in our backyards.