The latest big funding round in a wave of investment into the latest technology in the world of satellites and space exploration has seen Bill Gates join a $1 billion consortium backing a company aiming to provide ‘live and unfiltered’ satellite surveillance of Earth. EarthNow, who’s stated objective is “we want to connect you visually with Earth in real-time”, is the most recent start-up in the space and satellite technology sector to raise serious capital.
2017 saw $2.9 billion poured in 67 different companies and Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also reportedly in the process of raising another $500 million. Airbus, Japanese investment bank SoftBank and OneWeb, the satellite network being built to provide global internet access, founder Greg Wyler are among other prominent investors in EarthNow.
Softbank has shown particular ambition in investments in the area recently and among the group’s other commitments has been a $1 billion investment in OneWeb itself. The total value of the EarthNow raise, or what individual investors have committed, has not been published but it is thought that around 500 satellites boasting a huge range of the latest technology will be needed for EarthNow to achieve its objectives. The cost of creating that network has been estimated at $1 billion (£700 million).
“The company’s aim is for you to experience Earth’s beauty and its fragility, and to recognize the importance of being good stewards of our world.”
Each satellite will be based on the platform model used by OneWeb but massively upgraded with a huge load of hardware and processing power. The company says the CPU cores on each of its satellites will be more than the combined processing power of every other commercial satellite currently in operation. This power will be needed to capture and stream live footage of ‘every inch’ of the planet. The latest technology in the world of machine intelligence will also be employed.
Initially, the live stream footage will be offered commercial clients and the government sector. Uses are thought to include conservation, preventing crimes such as illegal fishing and improved weather forecasting and natural disaster prediction as well as war zone observation. More run-of-the-mill commercial applications could eventually include using the data for 3D maps of cities and hotspots. Eventually, individuals would likely be able to access the satellite streams from their smartphones like Google Earth.
However, the enterprise has also raised concerns around the potential for the footage to be used for spy-like surveillance of individuals in private property such as gardens or homes. EarthNow insists is objective is both simpler and more benign. CEO Russell Hannigan said in a statement:
“EarthNow is ambitious and unprecedented, but our objective is simple; we want to connect you visually with Earth in real-time. We believe the ability to see and understand the Earth live and unfiltered will help all of us better appreciate and ultimately care for our one and only home.”