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You are here: Home / Innovation / Google's X Shutters Drone Project
Google's Research Sibling X Shuts Down Drones Project
Google's Research Sibling X Shuts Down Drones Project
By Alex Hern Like this on Facebook Tweet this Link thison Linkedin Link this on Google Plus
PUBLISHED:
JANUARY
12
2017

Google owner Alphabet’s subsidiary research company, X, has shut down its project aimed at building a solar-powered drone intended to bring internet access to remote areas.

The project, which stemmed from an acquisition Google made in April 2014 of New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace [drone pictured above], was deemed by X to be less promising than a competing attempt to use lightweight weather balloons for the same purpose.

“The team from Titan was brought into X in late-2015. We ended our exploration of high-altitude UAVs for internet access shortly after,” an X spokesperson said. “By comparison, at this stage the economics and technical feasibility of Project Loon [its high-altitude balloon project] present a much more promising way to connect rural and remote parts of the world. 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.”

In ditching solar-powered drones, X has taken a different stance to rival Facebook, which has gone all-in on the technology with its Aquila project. The Aquila drone, a 130ft-long aircraft developed in Bridgwater, Somerset, is intended to circle in the upper atmosphere, using lasers to broadcast data down to base stations on the ground.

Facebook reported a “successful” test flight for the drone in July 2016, but America’s national transportation safety board later revealed that in fact, the drone was blown off course upon landing, resulting in the end of its wing snapping off. In a follow-up interview with the Verge, Facebook’s Yael Maguire argued that, because the drone had flown perfectly in the air and only suffered damage upon landing, “we feel like we shared 99.9% of the details, from a time perspective.”

X’s Project Loon proposal, achieved its first major milestone back in June 2013, when a New Zealand farmer connected to balloon-powered internet. The system uses advanced weather forecasting to actively navigate by raising and lowering its altitude to select which direction the wind should blow the balloons.

Project Wing, X’s other drone project, uses smaller machines to test the feasibility of drone-powered deliveries.

© 2017 Guardian Web under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.
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