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Google’s Project Loon was designed to blanket the world with Internet via balloon, but a wrong turn in San Francisco instead just blanketed a palm tree.
The fifty-foot test balloon came down atop an innocent tree in the front yard of a Chino Hills, California family, nearly 400 miles away from the company’s Mountain View headquarters.
According to San Francisco-based CBS affiliate KBCW, Janet Olaffson was the resident who got the unexpected balloon in her front yard. She was unaware of the crash landing until police knocked on her door.
“We ran out, and the police said don’t go near it,” she told KBCW. “At that time they had got a call from the company that said its a weather balloon.”
Until it was revealed that the balloon was part of Project Loon, speculation swirled among spectators.
One person suggested it was a weather balloon traveling from Las Vegas to Japan, despite the fact weather balloons typically spend just a few hours in the air at most before bursting. Olaffson thought her neighbor may have covered up the trees to protect them from paint, which doesn’t seem like a thing anyone would do.
Project Loon, created under the umbrella of moonshot factory Google X, is will become part of holding company Alphabet following Google’s recent restructure proposal. The long term plan for the project is to provide accessible Internet to underserved regions around the world. Recently, the program launched to deliver the Web to Sri Lanka.
While there may be homes without an Internet hookup in Chino Hills, the affluent Los Angeles suburb with a median income of over $97,000 per year is not the primary target for Project Loon. Alphabet told KBCW the balloon was intended to land nearby, but not directly in a resident’s lawn.
AJ Dellinger is a seasoned technology writer whose work has appeared in Digital Trends, International Business Times, and Newsweek. In 2018, he joined Gizmodo as the nights and weekend editor.