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Internet connectivity projects unite as Alphabet spinout Loon grabs $125M from SoftBank’s HAPSMobile

Two futuristic projects are coming together to help increase global internet access after Loon, the Google spinout that uses a collection of floating balloons to bring connectivity to remote areas, announced it has raised money from a SoftBank initiative.

HAPSMobile, a SoftBank project that is also focused on increasing global connectivity, is investing $125 million into Loon, according to an announcement from SoftBank made this morning. The agreement includes an option for Loon to make a reciprocal $125 million investment in HAPSMobile and it includes co-operation plans, details of which are below.

HAPSMobile is a one-year-old joint venture between SoftBank and U.S. company AeroVironment . The company has developed a solar-powered drone that’s designed to deliver 5G connectivity in the same way Facebook has tried in the past. The social network canceled its Aquila drone last year, although it is reported to have teamed up with Airbus for new trials in Australia.

Where Facebook has stumbled, HAPSMobile has made promising progress. The company said that its HAWK 30 drone — pictured below in an impression — has completed its initial development and the first trials are reportedly set to begin this year.

Loon, meanwhile, was one of the first projects to go after the idea of air-based connectivity with a launch in 2013. The business was spun out of X, the ‘moonshot’ division of Alphabet, last year and, though it is still a work in progress, it has certainly developed from an initial crazy idea conceived within Google.

Loon played a role in connecting those affected by flooding in Peru in 2017 and it assisted those devastated by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. Loon claims its balloons have flown more than 30 million kms and provided internet access for “hundreds of thousands” of people across the world.

In addition to the capital investment, the two companies have announced a set of initiatives that will help them leverage their collective work and technology.

For starters, they say they will make their crafts/balloons open to use for the other — so HAPSMobile can tap Loon balloons for connectivity and vice-versa — while, connected to that, they will jointly develop a communication payload across both services. They also plan to develop a common ground station that could work with each side’s tech and develop shared connectivity that their airborne hardware can tap.

Loon has already developed fleet management technology because of the nature of its service, which is delivered by a collection of balloons, and that will be optimized for HAPSMobile.

The premise of HAPSMobile is very much like Loon

Outside of tech, the duo said they will create an alliance “to promote the use of high altitude communications solution with regulators and officials worldwide.”

The investment is another signal that shows SoftBank’s appetite in tech investing is not limited to up-and-coming startups via its Vision Fund, more established ventures are indeed also in play. Just yesterday, the Vision Fund announced plans to invest $1 billion in German payment firm Wirecard and its past investments include ARM and Nvidia, although SoftBank has sold its stake in the latter.

San Juan’s mayor has a message for Moe from ‘The Simpsons’

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Moe the bartender and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz both know what it’s like to have paper towels thrown at them. 

At least, that’s the message from The Simpsons, which released a video on Friday night announcing the show had raised $25,000 for the people of Puerto Rico. 

Apparently, Cruz appreciated the message. 

Thank you Moe for understanding how we feel. We have very little power but having @TheSimpsons in our corner fills our hearts with light.

— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) November 4, 2017

The show made an appeal for aid after the first episode of Season 29, which also got a response from Cruz. Looks like it’s the start of a perfectly cromulent relationship.  Read more…

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Dogs rescued from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria are being adopted

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After surviving Puerto Rico’s deadly Hurricane Maria, a group of rescued dogs have arrived in U.S. cities, ready for adoption.

In one instance, reported by the New York Post, a total of 53 dogs were scooped up by animal rescue group The Sato Project — and 28 of these are up for adoption in New York City (the rest have been distributed to shelters around the U.S.). 

Lower East Side no-kill animal shelter Animal Haven is where you’ll find the NYC-based pooches, flown to the city via charter plane from Puerto Rico, funded by the John and Wendy Neu Foundation. Read more…

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Google parent Alphabet looks to restore cell service in Puerto Rico with Project Loon balloons

 The FCC has given approval for Google parent company, Alphabet, to help Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands regain wireless service. The company will attempt to enable LTE connectivity using its high-flying Project Loon balloons.

BREAKING: FCC issues experimental license to Google to provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico through Project Loon balloons.
— Matthew Berry… Read More

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Why it's so messed up that Trump just used the word “ingrates” in relation to Puerto Rico

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There isn’t a low bar for Donald Trump comments anymore. The bar has been obliterated. Everything he says is terrible, including Sunday morning’s tweet about political “ingrates” in Puerto Rico.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, has been explicit about the horrific conditions of the people in Puerto Rico, and transparent about the lack of support the island has been receiving from Donald Trump. She hasn’t attacked Trump outright, but she’s resorted to outright begging for help.

In response to Cruz, the president has been tweeting—and golfing—amidst one of the most horrendous humanitarian crises of his administration. His latest tweets, on Sunday morning, seemed to imply that Cruz and the people of Puerto Rico aren’t thankful enough for the minimal amount of aid that’s been provided so far. Read more…

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Terrifying Hurricane Maria videos shared from Puerto Rico and Dominica

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As Hurricane Maria continues to rampage through the Caribbean, images of the destruction are starting to surface. 

The island of Dominica was completely devastated by the storm. Puerto Rico was hit by “catastrophic” flooding, as the National Weather Service put it, and its capital could be without power for four to six months. 

When Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, it was a Category 4 storm with winds up to 155 miles per hour. As you can see, it was a terrifying event to live through. 

My moms friend in Puerto Rico sent us this video she took from her apartment #hurricanemaria #maria #MariaPR #pr pic.twitter.com/TzOvmfrTIC

— TheHungryCondor (@TheHungryCondor) September 20, 2017 Read more…

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Puerto Rico turns to tech and entrepreneurialism to revitalize the economy

Bright, pastel colors of  houses in  a neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo: KenWiedemann/iStock/Getty Images) Puerto Rico is steeped in more than $70 billion of debt that has been accruing for the better part of a decade. As part of its new economic development plan, Puerto Rican officials are looking to technology and entrepreneurship to revitalize the economy, attract its bright minds back to the island and solve the sustainability problems bedeviling the commonwealth. Read More

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