Emergency Services in New Zealand town today scrambled to assist what they thought was a downed plane, but actually turned out to be one of Google's Project Loon WiFi-beaming balloons.
Project Loon is Google's attempt to become an ISP of sorts by floating balloons over parts of the world where internet access is not often available. By doing so, Google hopes to sling more ads bring the benefits of the Internet to all and sundry. The Chocolate Factory's blurb about the project says it aims to create “a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.”
Today, one of those balloons fell to earth near the small town of Cheviot. According to The New Zealand Herald locals felt it might be a light plane and therefore suggested that Police and emergency services do their thing.
A rescue helicopter and members of the local constabulary rushed to the scene and found a balloon, no humans in need of rescue from anything other than degraded internet service.
Google New Zealand's spokesentities have confirmed the balloon was one of theirs and promised to recompense emergency services for their time and effort. They also told us that "Since launching Project Loon in New Zealand last year, we've continued to do research flights to improve the technology. We coordinate with local air traffic control authorities and have a team dedicated to recovering the balloons when they land." ®