Google X’s Project Wing, the arm of Google working on drones for use cases including burrito delivery, lost a key player to legal practice Hogan Lovells.
The global law firm announced this week that Laura Ponto, former head of public policy and regulatory affairs at Google X’s Project Wing, has joined its firm as counsel in its Washington, D.C. office.
With the news, Hogan Lovells is increasingly solidifying its status as one of the leading influencers in the drone world, in what Hogan Lovells employees call “a major coup.”
The law firm already has an extensive unmanned aircraft division led by Lisa Ellman, who has held a variety of positions at the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), including leading the DOJ’s effort to develop policy that would govern the use of drones in the United States.
Other key members of Hogan Lovells’ drone team include Gretchen West, who formerly spent 10 years at AUVSI as the group’s Executive Vice President and more recently spent about a year leading regulatory affairs at DroneDeploy.
Ponto’s role at Hogan Lovells will include not just drones and aviation, but also other transportation-related emerging technology. Ponto began her career in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of General Counsel, and then spent more than a decade in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Chief Counsel. Ponto joined Google X in 2017, spending about a year at the company.
Project Wing is the experimental arm of Alphabet (formerly known as Google). While many of Project Wing’s projects are largely secretive, audiences weren’t exactly impressed with some of the group’s more public projects. Students at Virginia Tech participated in burrito delivery trials, where they were loaded on a bus to the test site — a large hill. Burritos were delivered between the bottom and the top of the hill via drone.
“I think at first a lot of people thought the burritos would get delivered to our apartment,” said Makena Glemser, a junior at Virginia Tech. “That would have been cooler. If drone delivery actually happened, you wouldn’t want to drive somewhere to pick it up. You would want to have it dropped off at your front door.”
Project Wing has faced a fairly large amount of leadership turnover. Dave Vos, who had long been the head of Project Wing, stepped down from the project in 2016. Shortly after his departure, the division saw a reorganization that led to a number of job reductions.