Alphabet, Google’s holding company, has been feeling the pressure to become more like a real company. Thanks to this, it appears to be rethinking its less profitable ventures and is reorganising some projects that may or may not have paid off.
Shortly after announcing that it is spinning the autonomous car division off into a company known as Waymo, Alphabet has announced that it will be shutting down the Titan drone programme. This was an effort to build solar powered drones to transmit 5G internet over remote areas of the world. Originally Titan Aerospace, before it was bought over by Google, the team will now be spread out across the rest of Alphabet’s X to help on other projects.
Admittedly, the Titan drone was facing more problems than it was solving. A test flight ended with a crash, and the team had difficulties getting the drones to transmit a stable internet connection.
On the other hand, it looks like Google’s in-house mapping efforts are coming to an end. Alphabet announced that it is looking to sell its satellite imagining unit to a company known as Planet. The unit, called Terra Bella, operates seven satellites with the capability of taking high resolution images of the Earth. This data is not only used to keep Google Maps up to date, but is also sold to third parties.
Interestingly, Planet is said to be unable to afford Alphabet’s asking price. Which means that the transaction will largely be equity based; giving Alphabet a stake in the startup.
Should the sale go through, Google Maps will begin relying on third party mapping information. This will likely be the data bought from Planet; which means little will change in the short term.
Unfortunately, the announcement doesn’t talk about what this means for Google’s Skybox for Good. An initiative designed to provide non-profits with mapping information to track their work. This happens to include environmental groups who track deforestation and landmine clearing efforts in former war zones.