Google’s parent company Alphabet will be winding down its internet balloon firm Loon.
The firm’s CEO Alastair Westgarth made the announcement on Friday, while pointing out that the company’s demise was due to a lack of willing partners and an inability to build a sustainable business model.
“While we’ve found a number of willing partners along the way, we haven’t found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business,” he wrote in a Medium blog post.
“Developing radical new technology is inherently risky, but that doesn’t make breaking this news any easier. Today, I’m sad to share that Loon will be winding down.”
The company is best known for using giant high-altitude balloons and network partnership with global telcos to beam internet to remote parts of the world.
The former Google X project was spun out as an independent company of Alphabet in 2018 alongside Wing, Alphabet’s drone business.
Last July, the company announced it launched a fleet of 35 balloons in Kenya to provide service to over a 50,000 kilometre region to subscribers of Telekom Kenya.
By the end of last year, the company was deploying a new navigation system capable of teaching itself how to navigate balloons better than the original balloon navigation system, which was built by human engineers over the last decade.
In October 2017, Loon was granted permission by the US Federal Communications Commission to use its balloons to restore connectivity to Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. The balloons were also used in 2017 when the El Nino floods devastated parts of Northern Peru, and again in 2019 when an 8.0 magnitude earthquake hit Peru.