DR Congo’s civil aviation authority chief has been suspended after authorizing a Google internet balloon to overfly the territory “without notifying the government,” an official said on Wednesday.
A balloon, part of the Loon project run by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, was found on August 24 in Bas-Uele province in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeast.
The Loon initiative floats antennae-equipped balloons in the stratosphere to provide internet coverage in remote areas of Africa and South America where there are no terrestrial networks.
Two days after the balloon was found, Jean Tshiumba, director of the Civil Aviation Authority (AAC), said Loon had signed a memorandum of understanding with DR Congo.
But Transport Minister Didier Mazenga on Wednesday said Tshiumba had signed the agreement on September 30, 2019 “without notifying the government.”
Decisions touching on “the field of science with national security implications” are a matter for the government, he said.