Armed with $21 million in new funding, Satellite Vu is poised to launch its first seven-satellite constellation in 2023 and begin planned thermal monitoring of the planet. The company’s orbital view of heat and cold could lead to some serious economic insights — and insights of a different kind, as suggested by the additions of Lockheed Martin and In-Q-Tel to its list of investors.
Satellite Vu will add an interesting capability to the rapidly evolving line of earth imaging products out there. While most focus on visible light (e.g. Planet) or 3D structures from radar (e.g. ICEYE), this startup collects thermal imaging, which has applicability across a wide range of industries.
As founder and CEO Anthony Baker explained when we reported on it the company’s seed round In the past year, thermal images reveal whether a building is occupied or not, which parts of the city have a lot of traffic, whether heat or coolant is leaking from a factory, or whether groundwater is disappearing or encroaching.
“Our technology is being used to monitor the thermal footprint of buildings, derive insights and efficiencies into economic activity, study waste pollution of waterways, and assist with disaster relief,” Baker said in an email to TechCrunch.
So far, the UK-based company has confirmed demand for its product by flying high and using the satellite Vu imaging hardware to scan locations or entire cities. These proof-of-concept flights have proved so popular that the company has actually planned regular operations until the satellites are launched.
That should be sometime in early 2023; They signed a deal with SpaceX to ride one of the launch company’s ride-along vehicles, which would deliver the seven satellites that would make up the original constellation. The optics, which are the company’s secret recipe, have been improved since their atmospheric flight days and now deliver better images in daylight, and the satellites themselves have been made more maneuverable so they can capture more shots per pass.
The technology’s intelligence and defense applications are clear, although Baker assured me that the satellites, with a resolution of about 3.5 meters per pixel, are unable to see individual people. Of course, they can see vehicles, crowds, and other larger features that indicate people, but that’s not a tactical advantage. (By comparison, other orbital thermal imagers resolve about 100 m per pixel.)
That said, it’s obviously a commercial source of valuable information that seems to have trapped Lockheed and In-Q-Tel for what the company calls the A2 round.
“The round has been fully committed for £15m,” Baker wrote in October. “But we wanted to include Lockheed Martin, In-Q-Tel and Contrarian in the round as they needed a little more time. Management and current investors appreciated the importance of a strong consortium funding the Series B constellation and valued these new entrants.”
Of course, the cost of a multi-satellite constellation isn’t trivial, but Satellite Vu seems to be making a conscious move and ticking all the right boxes. Combining defense applications with the potential to track and combat climate change and pollution looks as safe as can be in this business.
Satellite Vu prepares to launch its thermal imaging satellite constellation with $21M A round – TechCrunch Source link Satellite Vu prepares to launch its thermal imaging satellite constellation with $21M A round – TechCrunch