Project Loon Autolauncher dubbed ‘Chicken Little’, Hits Puerto Rico

February 26, 2016 - Written By Daniel Fuller

Alphabet’s Project Loon, aimed at using giant balloons to bring internet connectivity to the world, has been in a fairly usable state and doing testing for a good while. After receiving the green light in India, Project Loon has been hard at work proving its worth and connecting people in far-flung and rural areas that otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to get on the internet. Project Loon rigs built all over, as well as the balloons themselves, which have gone on record as lasting well over 100 days in most cases, are starting to pop up worldwide. In Puerto Rico, a new automatic balloon inflator and launcher, affectionately dubbed “Chicken Little”, was demoed recently.

The official Project Loon page on Google+ posted some photos of the rig and its attached warehouse, as well as a dog that seemed particularly enthusiastic about the project. This portable autolauncher, measuring 55 feet tall, was disassembled for transport from its Wisconsin home. Chicken Little can inflate and launch a Loon balloon in about half an hour. This impressive setup time means that balloons can be deployed more than fast enough for a new balloon to show up and provide coverage whenever a balloon flies over an area and out of range. In testing thus far, Chicken Little has yet to fail in bringing a balloon online and skyward, though only a handful of test balloons have made their way up into the sky so far.

Project Loon’s testing is becoming more and more widespread as more and more elements and pieces of the puzzle come into play. The complete vision for Project Loon is very close to becoming a reality in some test markets, such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, where hundreds or even thousands of otherwise unconnected people are now able to get online. Pilot tests in New Zealand were also successful. No timelines or locations for further testing have been announced at this time. It’s likely that the Project Loon team will take some time to focus on getting current test locations in optimal condition and play around with different configurations, launch locations and trajectories for balloons before moving to new spots.