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Alphabet’s drone delivery division has added an Amazon veteran to its leadership team

The hiring of Faisal Masud, most recently Staples’ CTO, could signal that Project Wing is close to graduating out of the company’s ‘moonshot factory.’

A Project Wing drone flies while carrying a package on a rope below it in order to deliver to a customer in rural Australia.
Project Wing, Alphabet’s drone-delivery unit, is testing deliveries in rural Australia.
Project Wing
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Project Wing, the drone delivery division inside Google’s parent company Alphabet, has added longtime e-commerce executive Faisal Masud to its leadership team.

Masud was most recently the chief technology officer at Staples, where he had spent more than four years. He also worked for nearly a decade at Amazon, in management roles that spanned inventory planning to overseeing the company’s AmazonBasics brand.

At Project Wing, Masud will join the project’s co-heads James Ryan Burgess and Adam Woodworth on its leadership team as its head of operations. His hiring could signal that the unit is gearing up for a commercial launch or graduating to a full-fledged subsidiary of Alphabet.

“Faisal has a strong track record of building and scaling new delivery technologies,” a spokesperson said in a statement, “and his experience will be invaluable to Project Wing as it continues developing a drone delivery system that we hope will one day improve the speed, cost and environmental impact of transporting goods.”

Since the fall, Project Wing has been testing its delivery drones in partnership with a restaurant and pharmacy chain in Australia, delivering food, vitamins and over-the-counter medications to the yards of customers living in rural areas where the closest stores are not just a few minutes’ drive away.

Like Amazon’s Prime Air drone operation, Project Wing is looking to get ahead in the race to build a new type of logistics network in the sky — one that could revolutionize the delivery of goods but which comes with significant technical and regulatory hurdles.

The operation was started in 2012 inside what was then known as Google X, the “moonshot factory” created by Google’s founders to incubate potentially world-changing ideas that wouldn’t be expected to contribute meaningful revenue to the company for many, many years.

Like many of these projects, the drone delivery division has experienced its share of turbulence, with its previous head Dave Vos leaving in the fall of 2016 amid reported infighting between some leaders and the unit’s engineering team.

But Masud’s hiring could indicate the unit is closer to a broader commercial launch or graduating out of the Alphabet incubator now known simply as X, and into a separate subsidiary of Alphabet.

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