Wireless communications startup repurposes technology from Google’s balloon internet project

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Aalyria won an $8 million contract from the Defense Innovation Unit to prototype a hybrid communications network

WASHINGTON — Aalyria Technologies, a startup that emerged from stealth mode Sept. 13, plans to provide high-speed internet using software and networking technology from Google’s ill-fated project to beam internet service from high-altitude balloons.

Founded by former U.S. Marine and defense industry executive Chris Taylor, Aalyria is repurposing Google’s networking software but is not using balloons. Its goal is to provide high-speed communications that extend from land to sea, air and space.

Aalyria advisor and former Google vice president Milo Medin said the company’s software and optical network technology “marries ground-based fiber with space, wireless, and optical links to create a survivable on-demand network infrastructure.” He said this vision supports both military and commercial needs.

In a news release Sept. 13, Aalyria revealed it won an $8 million contract from the Defense Innovation Unit to prototype a network for DIU’s hybrid space architecture program that seeks to provide internet connectivity using both commercial and government satellites deployed in different orbits.

DIU had initially showed interest in Google’s Loon program, launched in 2014 and shut down in 2021. The idea of connecting networks from different domains appeals to the Defense Department as it looks to link systems in a joint command-and-control architecture. 

“Aalyria brings together two technologies originally developed at Alphabet as part of its wireless connectivity efforts: atmospheric laser communications technology and a software platform for orchestrating networks across land, sea, air, space and beyond,” the company said. It is backed by Silicon Valley investors including the founders of Accel, J2 Ventures and Housatonic.

The company hired former executives and technical experts from Google, Amazon, Meta, NASA, Cisco, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Lockheed Martin. Its advisory board includes former DoD and civil government officials. 

The combination of Aalyria’s network orchestration technology and laser communications, the company said, could support communications networks with up to 15 million possible links. 

A software platform called Spacetime was designed to manage networks of ground stations, aircraft, satellites, ships and urban meshes, and to be compatible with legacy network architectures. 

The laser communications technology, called Tightbeam, would move data in space and through the atmosphere, “offering connectivity where no supporting infrastructure exists,” said Aalyria. 

“These technologies set the new standard for intelligently orchestrating, managing, and extending mesh networks across all domains — land, sea, air, and space — to create connectivity everywhere, no matter the protocol,” said Taylor, the company’s CEO.

Aalyria said it is working with commercial space companies and governments “to make their networks more resilient, and make their spectrum more profitable.”