Google killed its solar-powered internet-drone program

X, a division of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is ending its solar-powered drone program, reassigning members of the Titan team to other projects, in the latest example of the company’s efforts to cut back its ambitious “moonshots.”

9to5Google first reported the news and a representative for X, Alphabet’s moonshot division, confirmed it to Business Insider.

News of Titan’s demise comes two days after Bloomberg reported that Alphabet plans to sell Terra Bella, its satellite-imaging service.

Google bought a company called Titan Aerospace in 2014. It had been developing solar-powered drones that could fly for several days at a time and take images of earth or beam down internet.

When Google reorganized into Alphabet in 2015, Titan was folded into X. Titan was then lumped into Project Wing, the X division that works on delivery drones. An X representative, Jacquelyn Miller, told Business Insider that X will instead focus on Project Loon, which makes high-altitude balloons, for delivering internet from the sky.

Titan AerospaceScreenshot / YouTubeA rendering of a Titan Aerospace drone.

Miller said the Titan project was ended some time within the last year but declined to give specifics. Some Titan employees were reassigned to other parts of X, including Project Loon. Miller did not say how many Titan employees lost their jobs, if any.

“The team from Titan was brought into X in late 2015. We ended our exploration of high altitude UAVs for internet access shortly after,” 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.”

Alphabet X project wingAlphabetA Project Wing delivery drone.

Project Wing has had its own troubles. The head of Wing, Dave Vos, left the company in October 2016. Miller said the company is still committed to Project Wing.

The end of Titan is the latest example of Alphabet’s attempt to trim the fat and focus on projects it believes can generate growth opportunities. Last fall, Alphabet shut down future expansion plans for Google Fibre, its home-internet service. Some have speculated Alphabet may end up selling Fibre.

Alphabet has also lost a number of other key executives since the formation of Alphabet, including Tony Fadell, the CEO of smart-home company Nest, and Chris Urmson, the former head of X’s self-driving-car division.

If you know anything about what’s going on with Alphabet’s projects in X, you can email [email protected] Anonymity guaranteed.

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