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Google’s Internet balloons cause panic in yet another country

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:49PM EST
Google Loon balloon project: mistaken for plane crash in New Zealand

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Google’s Project Loon has been around for a while now, but that hasn’t stopped people from freaking out whenever they see one. Today in New Zealand, residents thought a plane was crashing when in fact a Loon balloon was landing, according to The Wall Street Journal.

New Zealand is one of the test areas for the Loon balloons that Google is using to deliver web connectivity to rural areas around the world, and Google confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that one of its balloons had landed in an area where some New Zealanders had reported a plane crash to local authorities. A rescue helicopter was then sent to the site, but instead of finding a plane it found a balloon.

This isn’t the first time the Loon balloons have been a cause for concern. Two years ago in Kentucky, residents thought they saw a UFO when in fact it was a Loon balloon that had accidentally drifted from California (!).

The Loon balloons are one of Google’s “moonshot” projects and are a part of Google’s somewhat mysterious “X” research division. Google hopes that the balloons will be able to provide Internet connectivity for people around the world who currently don’t have access. After one year, the balloons have been rapidly improving. Google X’s Astro Teller told Wired this week that “the balloons are delivering 10x more bandwidth, 10x steer-ability, and are staying up 10x as long.”

Google is also looking to provide internet with drones, with its recent purchase of drone-maker Titan Aerospace. Facebook is also interested in providing Internet services to people by using drones.