Google Is No Longer Working on High-Altitude Drones

The program ended in early 2016 to focus on Internet delivery via balloons instead.
Google Is No Longer Working on High-Altitude Drones
Image credit: Google via PC Mag
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Google has suspended research on its solar-powered drone, the company confirmed on Wednesday, less than three years after inheriting the project through its acquisition of Titan Aerospace.

First reported by 9to5Google on Wednesday, the drone cancellation took place early in 2016, according to a representative from the X subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet. The representative told PCMag that X plans to refocus its efforts on development of a high-altitude balloon called Loon that can deliver internet access to remote areas, as well as the Project Wing drone delivery service.

 
 

"The team from Titan was brought into X in late 2015," X Communications Manager Jacquelyn Miller wrote in an email to PCMag. "We ended our exploration of high altitude UAVs for internet access shortly after."

Miller explained that the decision to stop drone research was one of several reorganizations that occurred after Alphabet was established, but that X's overall mission to expiriment with alternative ways of delivering Internet access hadn't changed.

"By comparison, 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," she wrote. "Many people from the Titan team are now using their expertise as part of other high flying projects at X, including Loon and Project Wing."

The challenges of delivering Internet access via solar-powered drones have not deterred Facebook, which performed a test flight of its own Aquila drone last year. That flight ended in disaster, however, when the prototype crashed due to a structural failure.

Facebook was also rumored to be interested in Titan Aerospace before Google acquired it in 2014. The company instead picked up UK-based Ascenta, which had also been working on solar-powered drones.


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