Drone delivery and internet balloons just became real businesses at Alphabet

Two side projects have taken flight.
Two side projects have taken flight.
Image: Alphabet
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Wing and Loon, two projects from Alphabet’s “moonshot lab,” have officially taken flight.

Wing, which delivers packages with autonomous drones, and Loon, which delivers internet through weather balloons, are the latest companies to spin out of X, Alphabet’s home for projects that fall outside of Google’s traditional advertising, software, and hardware businesses. Former graduates of the lab include the self-driving car company Waymo, and the cybersecurity company Chronicle.

Loon’s balloons have gotten attention for being mistaken for UFOs, and Wing’s drones have delivered burritos to Virginia Tech students. But now, like any new graduate, the question becomes whether they can make it in the world on their own.

The lab’s history of turning projects into businesses has yielded mixed results. Google Glass’s 2013 launch was met with a lackluster response from the public. Google Brain, the company’s applied AI lab, was born out of X. Waymo is in the process of rolling out an autonomous ride-hailing service, but for the most part, graduated projects have yet to bring in significant revenue for Alphabet.

Although Alphabet did not release any financials, the internal promotion of Wing and Loon bodes well for the projects’ futures. The difference, however, between a project and a business is the ability to make money. Thankfully, Google is still generating reams of cash, which can buoy Alphabet’s more costly moonshots until then.