Google parent Alphabet is mulling over the sale of its SkyBox Imaging satellite business, now called Terra Bella, which it had acquired back in 2014 for a hefty $500 million. The most likely suitor of this division, that provides high-definition satellite images and videos of the Earth for commercial purposes, is said to be Planet Labs.
This development was initially reported by Bloomberg. Citing sources privy to the matter, Google is currently holding private talks with the said private Earth-imaging company for a possible sale. It further suggests that some of the employees working on the project will move to Planet Labs, while others would be handed new roles by the parent company.
Google had acquired the satellite imaging business about three years ago to upgrade the quality and accuracy of its mapping service. The said division, Terra Bella, operated under Google Maps. It was tasked with producing miniature satellites that can carry optical hardware capable of taking several images and stitching them together to produce a high-resolution output.
Post the rebranding of the Skybox division, Google mentioned that the satellites would no longer cater only to advances in the Google Maps platform. It then expanded the scope of the project to analyze the HD images taken by the satellites more commercially, for tracking cargo and disaster relief. The company planned to use the geospatial info to transform the economic, societal, and humanitarian challenges.
But this wasn’t the only assignment Google had envisioned these satellites to complete in these years. The tech behemoth wanted to further the technology of these satellites and create a mesh-like network to beam free internet across the globe. But the report suggests that Google is now backtracking from its ambitious plan of blanketing the planet with the same.
Since the discussions are in early stages at the moment, there is nothing concrete about this decision as of yet. We’ve contacted Google and Planet for a word on the situation and will update you once we hear back from them.