New Zealand emergency services today dashed to respond to a report of a downed aircraft — only to discover their rescue target was a Google Loon balloon.
A member of the public called police at 11:25 AM local time, reporting that a plane had crashed into the Pacific Ocean near the town of Cheviot. Although authorities had also received word that a Google Loon balloon had gone down in the area around the same time, police cars, an ambulance, a lifeboat, and a rescue helicopter rushed to the scene, where they realized that the “plane” was one of Google’s Wi-Fi-beaming balloons.
Google New Zealand representatives have confirmed the balloon belonged to Google and promised the tech company would reimburse local emergency services. A rescue helicopter spokesperson said it was great to learn Google would cover the cost of the rescue efforts, according to stuff.co.nz.
Google began testing its Loon balloons in New Zealand last June. It has a team dedicated to recovering balloons when they land, which coordinates with local traffic control authorities.
Google’s Loon project aims to bring high-speed Internet access to remote areas of the world via hot air balloons. While Internet connectivity tends to drive economic growth, Google’s motives are hardly altruistic — more people on the web means more consumers of Google services and advertising.