Project Loon has advanced to become an entity unto its own, graduating from X to become a new independent business within Alphabet. Its sister Wing, which is building a drone delivery system, is also getting the new independent treatment.
Captain of Moonshots at X, Astro Teller, made the announcement in blog post. In line with the spirit in which Alphabet was created, these new companies will have their own leaders: Alastair Westgarth is the CEO of Loon, while James Ryan Burgess is the CEO of Wing in partnership with Adam Woodworth as Wing’s CTO.
Teller explained that X’s job is to create radical new technologies and build a bridge from an idea to a proven concept. With the foundational technology for Loon and Wing already built, they’re ready to take their products outside the prototyping-focused environment of X and into the real world.
Both entities have come a long way from the days when they were considered crazy science experiments, thanks in part to years of hard work and testing in the real world. Teller previously explained how the Loon team learned a lot along the way, including that wearing fluffy socks when walking on balloons was the trick to preventing leaks.
Loon's history includes an experimental pilot in New Zealand, where a small group of Loon pioneers tested the technology. The results of the pilot test, as well as subsequent tests in New Zealand, California's Central Valley and Northeast Brazil, were used to improve the technology.
Loon inked deals with some of the leading mobile operators around the world, including Telstra, to make it all happen. The team was able to showcase its expertise last year in the U.S., deploying balloons over Puerto Rico to provide basic internet service after debilitating storms knocked out communications. AT&T and T-Mobile were part of those restoration efforts as well.
RELATED: Loon seeks STA for balloon tests with Band 20 capability at Winnemucca facility
There were signs that Loon's status was changing. Business Insider last year reported that Project Loon was incorporated as Loon Inc., citing regulatory filings, and Loon Inc. was listed as the applicant name on FCC filings seeking authority to do experiments. Earlier this year, the FCC granted Loon the authority to conduct Band 20 tests near its Winnemucca, Nevada, launch site.
Wired just published a behind-the-scenes look at some of the work going on in Nevada.
Loon will continue to work with mobile network operators around the world to bring internet access to unconnected and under-connected people, and Wing will continue building its drone delivery system to improve the speed, cost and environmental impact of transporting goods—along with an unmanned-traffic management platform to safely route drones through the skies.