Although both companies are drone related, they will be forming two separate companies, Loon and Wing respectively. They will join Waymo as automated systems projects to graduate from incubation out of X.
Project Loon utilizes high-altitude balloons to bring internet to remote and rural areas. The balloons are intelligently maneuvered sourcing data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and will act as a relay from user to ISPs where ground stations are not an option or infrastructure is weak. Loon proved its viability last year when its balloons were deployed in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria to provide Wifi internet infrastructure within the disaster zone.
Project Wing is Alphabet’s drone delivery project whose genesis actually predates Jeff Bezos reveal of Amazon’s proposed Prime Air system. Wing’s hybrid fixed-wing VTOL frames were initially developed to deliver defibrillators aerially in the case of emergencies, but it didn’t take long for the project to scale its vision to universal 10 minute or less deliveries.
Most of the projects launched by X never make it out of the lab, so to have two projects moving on at once is unprecedented. “Now that the foundational technology for these projects is built, Loon and Wing are ready to take their products into the world,” wrote X CEO (aka “Captain of Moonshots?) Astro Teller in a blog post. “This is work best done outside of the prototyping-focused environment of X.”