Google parent Alphabet grounds Titan Internet drone division


Google Inc.’s parent company Alphabet Inc. has continued the purge of its X moonshots division by closing its Titan drone division and related Project Skybender that were intended to provide Internet access to remote areas.

First reported by 9to5Google, the closure resulted in members of the Titan team getting reassigned to other projects. The Titan drone division was an X project that was based on Titan Aerospace Inc., a company Google acquired in 2014.

At the time of acquisition, Titan was developing solar-powered drones that would fly at a height of 12 miles to deliver Internet to remote areas as well as to take real-time images and atmospheric data. But under Google, it never quite managed to succeed, with a test flight in May 2015 resulting in a drone crashing shortly after takeoff.

As recently as January 2016, Alphabet was still talking up the division with a shift to Project Skybender, a new use for the drones that would see them deliver 5G data access. The project included the company renting 15,000 square feet of hangar space from Virgin Galactic at the privately owned Spaceport America.

Alphabet has confirmed the closure of the division, saying that it will focus on other moonshot programs instead. “The team from Titan was brought into X in late 2015. We ended our exploration of high altitude UAVs for Internet access shortly after,” Alphabet X Communcations Manager Jacquelyn Miller said in a written statement. “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. 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.”

Titan’s closure follows news earlier this week that Alphabet was looking to sell its Skybox satellite business as part of a broader push to divest itself from unprofitable or specialized divisions to cut costs, particularly in what used to be known as the Google X division.

Image courtesy of Alphabet Titan