Makani, the energy kite company dropped by Alphabet earlier this year, released a feature-length movie to commemorate its end as a deal with Shell falls through (GOOGL)

Makani prototype used to test autonomous transition from hover to crosswind flight

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Airbnb earned plaudits when it laid off a quarter of its staff for CEO Brian Chesky’s heartfelt note to employees earlier this year. Now Alphabet has taken the bittersweet goodbye move to another level by releasing a 2-hour movie about its failed wind kite company Makani, which has announced it’s officially closing shop.

Makani, you might recall, attempted to generate power by attaching wind turbines to giant kites. Google acquired the company in 2013 and rolled it into its experimental X lab. In February 2019, it was spun out into its own company under Alphabet, but was dropped a year later when Alphabet no longer saw it as commercially viable .

But there was still hope that the project could be sustained by other means. In a blog post at the time, Makani’s CEO Fort Felker said Makani was exploring options to continue developing the technology with Shell, which had partnered with Makani for its offshore operations.

Sadly, that hasn’t happened, as a new blog post by Makani’s ex-chief technologist Paula Echeverri makes clear. “We weren’t able to secure the investment needed to take Makani forward, so our time as a company has come to an end,” she wrote.

“Shell decided not to take Makani forward and the team weren’t able to secure the investment needed to take the company forward,” an X spokesperson confirmed.

A spokesperson for Shell didn’t immediately respond for comment.

Alongside the feature-length documentary film, Makani has released source code, flight logs, and almost 1,200 pages of documentation that includes a detailed post-mortem.

An X spokesperson confirmed that Makani’s chief technologist Paula Echeverri has also moved back into X as a systems integrations lead. Charlie Nordstrom, Makani’s head of offshore, is also now part of X working on early stage projects.

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“A number of Makani folks found roles at X or other places in the ABC family,” said an X spokesperson.

Google said it is also making Makani’s worldwide patent portfolio free to use.

‘Sergey Brin was instrumental in Makani’s progress’

Makani (Hawaiian for wind) made some notable developments during its tenure at Google, including the launch of a 600 KW prototype kite.

But it also suffered a major setback in 2019 when a kite crashed into the sea during offshore testing in Norway, just a few months before Alphabet called it quits on the project.

“Perhaps 200 individuals worked on the project at one time or another” over 13 years, said ex-CEO Fort Felker in a forward for one of the new reports.

In August, Felker updated his LinkedIn profile to state he had retired.

“We are grateful for the support provided over many years by ARPA-E, Google, X, Alphabet, and Shell,” he wrote in the new report.

“In particular, the enthusiastic engagement and support of Sergey Brin was instrumental in Makani’s progress. These supporters shared our passion for the mission, provided plenty of excellent advice, and encouraged Makani to be bold and move fast.”

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Source:: Business Insider


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