Big news from Alphabet, the company formerly known as Google, hit this month around its Wing drone delivery service.
Project Wing is going to become an independent business within Alphabet, the company formerly known as Google. Wing had formerly been a part of X, which is Alphabet’s research and development arm working on projects such as Makani, an energy kite project.
According to Alphabet, the purpose of X is t develop and de-risk early-stage technologies, turning them into products that can be the foundation for large, sustainable businesses.
“Once a team is ready to polish products or scale operations, they’re ready to graduate from X,” according to a statement from X.
James Ryan Burgess is the new CEO of Wing, and Adam Woodworth will be Wing’s CTO. With the spinoff, Wing now also has a new logo:
Wing had 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. A few months ago, the company lost a key player, former head of public policy and regulatory affairs Laura Ponto, to legal practice Hogan Lovells.
Wing launched in 2012, and its project included delivering food and over-the-counter pharmaceutical goods to the yards ofhomes near Canberra, Australia. Its testing has recently focused on smaller, suburban yards and navigating obstacles like trees and powerlines in confined spaces. It was also recently selected by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to participate in its Integration Pilot Program.
Wing’s current prototype has fixed wings like a traditional airplane AND 12 hover rotors like a more traditional hovering multicopter drone. Its wingspan is 3.2 feet and it weighs 11 lbs, plus can carry 4 lbs in weight.
While many of 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.”
Along with the announcement that Project Wing would become its own business, X also announced that Project Loon, a network of balloons with the intent of providing Internet access to rural areas, would spin off as an independent business as well.
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Loon and Wing are not the only companies to “graduate” from X. Among the other companies to spinoff as their own businesses are cybersecurity company Chronicle, life sciences company Verily, and perhaps most famously, the self-driving car company, Waymo.