News | World News | Alphabet Project Loon and Project Wing from moonshots into full businesses

Alphabet Project Loon and Project Wing from moonshots into full businesses

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Alphabet turns two of its 'moonshots' into standalone firms to make internet-beaming balloons and delivery drones a reality

  • Alphabet said on Wednesday that it's 'graduating' Project Loon and Project Wing
  • This means that the two firms will go from moonshots to full-fledged businesses
  • Project Loon develops internet-beaming balloons for underserved areas
  • Project Wing is building a drone delivery system for transporting packages

By Annie Palmer For Dailymail.com

Published: 14:44 EDT, 11 July 2018 | Updated: 18:19 EDT, 11 July 2018

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Google parent Alphabet has two new businesses under its name. 

The firm announced on Wednesday that it's 'graduating' Project Loon and Project Wing from moonshots to full-fledged businesses at Alphabet. 

Project Loon, its internet-bearing balloon initiative, and Project Wing, its drone delivery service, were launched in 2013 and 2014, respectively, as part of its research-and-development lab Google X. 

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Alphabet's Google X announced on Wednesday that its moonshots Project Loon and Project Wing would 'graduate' to full companies. Pictured is a Loon balloon being tested in California
Alphabet's Google X announced on Wednesday that its moonshots Project Loon and Project Wing would 'graduate' to full companies. Pictured is a Loon balloon being tested in California

Alphabet's Google X announced on Wednesday that its moonshots Project Loon and Project Wing would 'graduate' to full companies. Pictured is a Loon balloon being tested in California

Now, Loon and Wing will be included in Alphabet's 'Other Bets' category, which includes former Google X moonshots like deep learning research project Google Brain, life sciences research arm Verily as well as self-driving car startup Waymo, among others. 

The CEO of Loon will be Alastair Westgarth, former CEO of antenna company Quintel, while longtime Google employee James Ryan Burgess is the CEO of Wing, Google X head Astro Teller announced in a blog post. 

'Today, unlike when they started as X projects, Loon and Wing seem a long way from crazy — and thanks to their years of hard work and relentless testing in the real world, they’re now graduating from X to become two new independent businesses within Alphabet: Loon and Wing,' Teller wrote. 

'As Other Bets, they’ll continue the missions they started here at X,' Teller added. 

Loon will continue to provide internet-connected balloons to 'unconnected' and underserved people globally. 

Wing is still building a drone delivery system as well as an unmanned traffic management platform to 'safely route drones through our skies.' 

Now, Loon and Wing will be included in Alphabet's 'Other Bets' category, which includes other former Google X moonshots. Pictured is one of Project Wing's delivery drones

Wing, which was formed in 2014, is still building a drone delivery system as well as an unmanned traffic management platform to 'safely route drones through our skies'
Wing, which was formed in 2014, is still building a drone delivery system as well as an unmanned traffic management platform to 'safely route drones through our skies'

Wing, which was formed in 2014, is still building a drone delivery system as well as an unmanned traffic management platform to 'safely route drones through our skies'

Google didn't provide any updates on how the companies are progressing, beyond saying that their original objectives haven't changed as part of the move.  

Loon has expanded over the years, maturing from presenting the novel idea of internet-connected balloons to delivering internet connectivity to Puerto Rico's residents in the wake of Hurricane Maria. 

The firm worked with AT&T and T-Mobile to successfully deliver basic internet to remote areas of Puerto Rico where cellphone towers were knocked out by Hurricane Maria.

Two of the search giant's 'Project Loon' balloons floated over the country enabling texts, emails and basic web access. 

Loon has expanded over the years, from presenting the novel idea of internet-bearing balloons to delivering connectivity to Puerto Rico's residents in the wake of Hurricane Maria
Loon has expanded over the years, from presenting the novel idea of internet-bearing balloons to delivering connectivity to Puerto Rico's residents in the wake of Hurricane Maria

Loon has expanded over the years, from presenting the novel idea of internet-bearing balloons to delivering connectivity to Puerto Rico's residents in the wake of Hurricane Maria

HOW DO PROJECT LOON'S BALLOONS WORK?

Project Loon is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space, designed to connect people to the internet in remote parts of the world.

The balloons travel approximately 12 miles (20km) above the Earth's surface in the stratosphere. 

Winds in the stratosphere are stratified, and each layer of wind varies in speed and direction, so Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go. 

It then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network.

The inflatable part of the balloon is called a balloon envelope made from sheets of polyethylene plastic that are 49ft (15 metres) wide and 40ft (12 metres) tall when inflated. 

The balloons harness power from card table-sized solar panels that dangle below them, and they can gather enough charge in four hours to power them for a day.

Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area of around 25 miles (40km) in diameter using LTE, also referred to as 4G, technology. 

Project Loon is partnering with telecommunications companies and mobile networks to share cellular spectrum.

Ground stations with internet capabilities around 60 miles (100km) apart bounce signals up to the balloons.

The signals can then hop forward, from one balloon to the next, along a backbone of up to five balloons.

Project Loon initially competed against Facebook's 'Aquila' project, which used drones to beam high-speed internet across the globe. 

However, it was revealed last month that Facebook was quietly killing off the project in favor of partnerships with firms like Airbus.

Meanwhile, Wing seems to have had decent success so far.

Project Wing has delivered medication on behalf of a pharmacy, as well as burritos to college students at Virginia Tech, in order to test out its delivery drone technology. 

The CEO of Loon will be Alastair Westgarth, former CEO of antenna company Quintel, while longtime Google employee James Ryan Burgess is the CEO of Wing
The CEO of Loon will be Alastair Westgarth, former CEO of antenna company Quintel, while longtime Google employee James Ryan Burgess is the CEO of Wing

The CEO of Loon will be Alastair Westgarth, former CEO of antenna company Quintel, while longtime Google employee James Ryan Burgess is the CEO of Wing

Project Loon initially competed against Facebook's 'Aquila' project, which used drones to beam high-speed internet across the globe. However, Aquila has since been shuttered
Project Loon initially competed against Facebook's 'Aquila' project, which used drones to beam high-speed internet across the globe. However, Aquila has since been shuttered

Project Loon initially competed against Facebook's 'Aquila' project, which used drones to beam high-speed internet across the globe. However, Aquila has since been shuttered

It has also worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to create a registry for drones, as well as a air traffic control system for the unmanned aerial vehicles. 

In 2015, Wing said it had hoped to have commercial flights available by 2017, but that has yet to materialize. 

Google in 2016 announced that it would be cutting the number of staff working on Project Wing, after cancelling a tentative partnership with Starbucks. 

There were also several high-level ousters at the firm, including David Mos, former leader of the project. 

Project Wing has delivered medication on behalf of a pharmacy, as well as burritos to college students at Virginia Tech, in order to test out its delivery drone technology.
Project Wing has delivered medication on behalf of a pharmacy, as well as burritos to college students at Virginia Tech, in order to test out its delivery drone technology.

Project Wing has delivered medication on behalf of a pharmacy, as well as burritos to college students at Virginia Tech, in order to test out its delivery drone technology.

With Wing and Loon established as separate businesses, Teller believes they can accomplish even more. 

'Now that the foundational technology for these projects is built, Loon and Wing are ready to take their products into the world; this is work best done outside of the prototyping-focused environment of X,' Teller said. 

He added that X will now turn its focus to other moonshot initiatives, such as robotics projects and its smartglasses unit Google Glass.

WHAT IS PROJECT WING?  

Project Wing's aircraft has a wingspan of approximately 1.5m (4.9ft) and have four electrically-driven propellers.

The total weight, including the package to be delivered, is approximately 10kg (22lb).

The aircraft itself accounts for the bulk of that at 8.5kg (18.7lb).

The hybrid 'tail sitter' design has wings for fast forward flight, and rotors for hovering for delivery and vertical take-off and landing.

Dual mode operation gives the self-flying vehicle some of the benefits of both planes and helicopters.

It can take off or land without a runway, and can hold its position hovering in one spot to gently drop packages.

Packages are stored in the drone's 'belly' then dropped on a string before being gently lowered to the ground.

At the end of the tether, there's a little bundle of electronics the team call the 'egg,' which detects that the package has hit the ground, detaches from the delivery, and is pulled back up into the body of the vehicle. 

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By Shawn Arnette 11/07/2018 18:19:00