Google announced that has just cancelled its solar Internet drone project. The news broke on January 11th in an interview with an executive from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and 9to5Google. This solar drone project was a part of Alphabet’s X division and was officially known as the Titan project. Apparently the team at X hasn’t even looked at this project since late 2015. Most of the people who worked on Titan were reportedly reassigned to other projects in X.
Why Alphabet Pulled The Plug On the Titan Drone
One executive at X, Jacquelyn Miller, didn’t give a specific date when the Titan project was disbanded, and she also declined to say how many people lost their jobs. Miller only said many people working on Titan moved onto another project called “Project Loon.” Google apparently feels Project Loon, which is dedicated to making high-altitude balloons and helping connect people to the Internet in rural areas, is more realistic than the Titan’s attempt to connect the world using solar powered drones.
When asked about Project Loon, Miller said,
…at this stage the economics and technical feasibility of Project Loon present a much more promising way to connect rural and remote parts of the world.
Some tech experts believe Alphabet is letting Titan go to reduce spending on “moonshot” projects. This isn’t the first time Alphabet executives have attempted to remove economically unfeasible projects in recent times. Just a few months ago, Alphabet officially closed plans to expand Google Fiber, which is a home-internet service. Alphabet might sell Fiber later this year.
How Google Got Involved With Titan And Facebook’s Drones
This whole Titan project began in 2014 when Google bought Titan Aerospace. Titan Aerospace was focused on creating solar-powered drones with the ability to send Internet signals to the earth below. Once Google became a part of the larger conglomerate Alphabet, Titan moved into the X division. Google created the X division to house more experimental and “moonshot” technologies. Titan was officially a part of Project Wing once it joined X. Project Wing is concerned specifically with delivery drones.
Some critics doubted Titan’s long-term prospects years ago. Not only did the Titan team crash a drone in 2015, but the Titan division often reported having huge problems transmitting 5G data. Although Project Wing is still operating without Titan, some Alphabet analysts believe the project is in trouble. One reason people things may not be well with Project Wing is the fact that the leader of Wing, Dave Vos, recently left the company inexplicably last October.
Although some believe Wing won’t be around for much longer, Miller told reporters Alphabet is still funding the project. With the Titan project out of the way, many tech experts believe it’s time for Facebook‘s drone technology to shine. The social media giant bought British aerospace company Ascenta in 2014, and it too has been working on drones to bring the Internet to more remote locales.
While Facebook did try to get involved in the solar-powered drone space with its Aquila drone, they’ve also experienced similar problems to Alphabet’s Titan. In 2014, Facebook’s Aquila crashed in Arizona. Despite the crash, Facebook believes in the Aquila technology and is still funding this venture.
The New Alphabet Regime Is Here To Stay
The news of the ending of Titan may shock a few, but it really shouldn’t. After all, Google created Alphabet to put more pressure on experimental projects to deliver. One of the main critiques stock investors had with Google was it’s reckless spending on “moonshot” projects, and the creation of Alphabet was a reaction to these critiques. Now that all the projects under the Alphabet banner must operate separately, they all need to deliver good results fast to keep the funding coming.
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