The Best Inventions of 2020
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November 19, 2020 8:56 AM EST

Originally a Google “moonshot” project conceived in 2011, Alphabet subsidiary Loon aims to extend Internet access to underserved locales by deploying a network of giant stratospheric balloons. Those balloons—each the size of a tennis court—previously floated above Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and above Peru after the 2019 earthquake. But this summer marked the project’s first commercial deployment. In partnership with local provider Telkom Kenya, Loon’s network of dozens of balloons now beam 4G Internet across more than 30,000 sq. mi. of central and western Kenya—­making web browsing, email and text more accessible to those below. —Joseph Hincks

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