The latest Google drones have just started taking flight in the real world. But the team behind the technology is slowing down, trimming headcount and shelving initiatives as the experimental unit becomes the latest target of tightening budgets across parent company Alphabet.
Project Wing, a unit of Alphabet’s X research lab, nixed a partnership with coffee giant Starbucks, according to people familiar with the decision. Following the departure of project leader Dave Vos in October, the unit also froze hiring and began asking some staff to seek jobs elsewhere in the company, according to some of those people. They asked not to be identified speaking about private company moves.
The decisions are part of a broader Alphabet effort to rein in spending and try to turn more experimental projects from loss-making risky bets into real businesses. Drones are in a particularly knotty place. U.S. federal regulation does not yet allow for delivery, except in select test zones. However, Alphabet’s deceleration comes as other technology companies, including Amazon, plow money into drone delivery.