As winter begins in the Southern hemisphere, many Brazilians are sending paper balloons skyward in celebration of Festa Junina, a festival celebrating the winter solstice. Project Loon was honored to join in the festivities this year with our own balloon launch in the rural outskirts of Campo Maior, where we connected Linoca Gayoso, a local school, to the Internet for the first time.
The vast majority of this community doesn’t have Internet or cell service—but the locals know of a few very specific spots around town where they might find a weak signal. So if you see them sitting in trees, you’ll know why. (In fact, they have a word for this—‘vaga-lume,’ which means ‘fireflying,’ in English—because at night that’s what the glow from their mobile phones looks like.) But with the Project Loon team in town and one of our balloons overhead, the students in Tiao’s geography class were able to get to the Internet from their classroom for the first time as they learned about world cultures.
This test flight marked a few significant ‘firsts’ for Project Loon as well. Launching near the equator taught us to overcome more dramatic temperature profiles, dripping humidity and scorpions. And we tested LTE technology for the first time; this could enable us to provide an Internet signal directly to mobile phones, opening up more options for bringing Internet access to more places.
Check out these photos for a behind-the-scenes look on how it all came together.