Google ditches internet-supplying drone project, sticks with balloons

13 Jan 2017

Image: sdecoret/Shutterstock

Google X has shut down its internet-drone project Titan, pinning all its hopes on balloons in the sky, a divergent path from rival Facebook.

Three years after it bought Titan Aerospace, a maker of high-altitude solar-powered drones attracting serious interest from Facebook, Google has now washed its hands of it.

In early 2016, after two years of significant testing, the company decided that drones were not the best way to deliver internet capabilities to every corner of the globe, breaking up Titan and spreading its 50-strong workforce throughout the rest of Alphabet.

Future Human

Google Drone

“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.

That means there is one less project looking to fill our skies with internet providers, though Google remains at the forefront with Project Loon, which is attempting to fill the skies with drone balloons providing internet throughout the globe. The project is already powering ahead with testing.

“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,” said the X spokesperson.

“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.”

Google also owns a stake in SpaceX, which is looking to use a series of small, low-cost satellites to achieve the same thing.

Samsung is looking to get in on the action, with 4,600 low-orbit satellites thought to be the way forward for the South Korean company. Richard Branson is backing OneWeb’s project, which is quite similar to Samsung’s plans.

Back on the drone planes side of things, Facebook, which tried buying Titan before Google, is working on its own version. It successfully tested out a variation in the UK last year.

Called the Aquila project, Facebook’s 130ft-long aircraft will, should it work, circle in the upper atmosphere, using lasers to broadcast data down to base stations on the ground.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic