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Alphabet's Loon and Wing are now more than just 'projects'

They're joining the ranks of Waymo and others as full-fledged divisions. Google parent company Alphabet's internet-delivering balloon service and its drone delivery project have graduated from X programs to full-fledged businesses at Alphabet. From here, Alphabet says that Loon will maintain its mission of working with carriers worldwide to deliver internet to underserved areas. Wing will similarly continue building out its network of delivery UAVs, not to mention its air-traffic control system for the unmanned aircraft. And since the companies are their own entities now, they each have an official leader. Alastair Westgarth will serve as CEO of Loon, while James Ryan Burgess will fill the same role at Wing. Prior to Loon, Westgarth was president and CEO at Quintel until early 2017, a cellular antenna company. Burgess has been with Google since late 2012. These journeys have been intriguing to watch, particularly Loon. In 2013 the idea of internet delivered by a network of balloons sounded kind of ridiculous. But, as time has gone on Alphabet has shown how viable and valuable it can be in times of need. Most recently, that happened in Puerto Rico where Loon delivered basic connectivity to the island's 100,000-plus residents following Hurricane Maria. Rumors of Loon being spun out into its own company first appeared last October. Wing has been an interesting project as well, delivering burritos by drone to college students, in addition to medicine to those in rural areas. What's most exciting though is the work Google has done on the more mundane aspects of drone-powered deliveries. Like working with the FAA to classify low-altitude space for drone flights, in addition to that air traffic control system. Alphabet says that the next steps for each company are best done outside the X Lab's "prototyping-focused environment" and in the real world. And, now that these two have been pushed out of the nest as it were, Alphabet can work on new moonshots in addition to furthering Google Glass and robotics projects.

Alphabet’s X graduates its Loon and Wing moonshots into standalone companies

Alphabet has added a couple more companies to its portfolio of subsidiaries, now that two of its moonshot projects have graduated to become full-fledged independent businesses. Googles parent company has publicly operated Project Wing and Project Loon since 2014 and 2013 respectively, though both projects actually predate their official announcements. Project Wing is basically a drone delivery service designed to improve access to goods, while Loon is a balloon network that beams internet access to remote areas. 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, theyre now graduating from X to become two new independent businesses within Alphabet. Loon balloons travel roughly 20 km above the Earth in the stratosphere, where winds can vary dramatically in terms of speed and direction. So Loon uses algorithms and other predictive models to move the balloons into different layers to ensure they move in the right direction. Waymo, life sciences business Verily, geothermal energy company Dandelion, and cybersecurity intelligence offshoot Chronicle. According to our calculations, Alphabet now has 15 subsidiaries, which include Google, X, Calico, DeepMind, GV, Capital G, Jigsaw, Google Fiber, and Sidewalk Labs. The timing of the Project Loon announcement is particularly notable, as it comes just a couple of weeks after Facebook revealed it was killing a similar project it had operated for a few years, called Aquila. The new divisions will keep their names, minus any project appendage that existed before, meaning they will simply be called Loon and Wing. And they will essentially continue on the same trajectory as they have been — Loon has already tested its AI-powered internet-beaming smarts in a number of markets around the world and has said it will continue to work with network operators to continue rolling its service out elsewhere. In short, Xs mission was to get the projects off the ground and prove that they could work and are sustainable. The next step is to develop real and scalable applications for the underlying platform and technology. 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 added. Loons new CEO will be Alastair Westgarth, who was project lead on Loon since he joined X in early 2017, while James Ryan Burgess, who co-led Project Wing since 2012, will head up the newly independent Wing.