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Alphabet grounds Titan solar-powered drones, shifts to Project Loon instead

Alphabet’s X division always has a number of forward-looking and sometimes fanciful research initiatives underway. These are the company’s most pie-in-the-sky projects that may or may not ever see the light of day, with Google Glass and Google Brain representing two projects that have made their way into the real world.

One of X’s most hopeful initiatives involves providing universal internet access via sky-based wireless routers. One of them, Project Loon, uses high-altitude balloons to loft the routers in the air, and that project is still on track. Another, dubbed Titan and using fixed-wing solar-powered drones, isn’t so lucky, as 9to5Google reports.

Apparently, Alphabet has decided to scrap the Titan project, after Google had purchased Titan Aerospace in 2014. Titan made high-altitude, solar-powered drones that can stay in the air for extended periods of time and could likely serve a variety of purposes for Alphabet. The idea at the time seemed to be to combine the Titan drones with Project Loon balloons to provide internet access to underserved areas of the globe, but it appears that idea has been abandoned.

According to an X spokesperson, “The team from Titan was brought into X in early 2015. We ended our exploration of high-altitude UAVs for internet access shortly after. 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.”

More than 50 Titan employees will be looking for new employment at other Alphabet companies, and team members had already been making their way to other groups including, naturally, Project Loon. Therefore, it’s likely that although Alphabet has shifted gears a bit in their quest for providing universal internet access, they’re not even close yet to giving up on it.