“Tens of thousands” of Peruvians have been getting online using Project Loon, the ambitious connectivity project from Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
Project Loon uses tennis court-sized balloons carrying a small box of equipment to beam internet access to a wide area below.
The team told the BBC they had been testing the system in Peru when serious floods hit in January, and so the technology was opened up to people living in three badly-hit cities.
Until now, only small-scale tests of the technology had taken place.
Project Loon is in competition with other attempts to provide internet from the skies, including Facebook’s Aquila project which is being worked on in the UK.
Project Loon recently announced it had figured out how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to “steer” the balloons by raising or lowering them to piggy-back weather streams. It was this discovery that enabled the company to use just a “handful” of balloons to connect people in Lima, Chimbote, and Piura.
The balloons were launched from the US territory of Puerto Rico before being guided south.
Over the course of three months – at the time of writing the balloons were still providing access – users have sent and received 160GB-worth of data, the equivalent of around 30 million instant messages, or two million emails.