British satellite company Earth-i has announced that the firm has joined the USGIF (United States GeoSpatial Intelligence Forum) and will be expanding its operations in the US — the company already has a number of customers in the US and is in discussions with additional high-profile potential partners and customers across North America.
In a separate announcement, OGSystems has outlined details of its new partnership with Earth-i, which will be supplying high-resolution satellite imagery for OGSystems’ BlueGlass platform. Earth-i is an established and well-regarded image and Earth Observation analytics business which last week announced its program to operate the world’s first commercial constellation to provide both still images and full color video footage.
At this week’s GEOINT Symposium taking place in San Antonio, Texas, Earth-i is discussing how the firm's new constellation will provide more concise insights to the geospatial intelligence community. The launch of this constellation is a natural evolution of Earth-i’s existing and well-regarded image and Earth Observation (EO) analytics business and will enable the company to meet the rapidly growing demand for high-resolution EO data from the growing sector for big data analytics and insights drawn from such data.
Traditionally, extracting value from EO data has been the preserve of Governments and some larger corporations. Earth-i is now at the forefront of the New Space era which is being driven by institutions and commercial organizations that want to improve investment and trading decisions, monitor and track their assets more cost effectively, analyze change or activity in critical locations — predict future events — with more certainty.
Using advanced, proprietary technology, mostly developed in the UK and already proven on satellites designed by the world’s leading smallsat experts, Earth-i has commissioned a highly sophisticated smallsat for their own constellation. As a result, the constellation will offer a number of innovative capabilities that are new to the market, including:
- The provision of images and full motion, high-definition color video with resolutions that are better than 1 meter. The use of video enables more images to be captured from different angles which can be stacked to create virtual 3D models
- The ability to accurately film in colored video moving targets such as vehicles, vessels and aircraft
- Revisiting the same location multiple times per day with satellites which can be accurately tasked (instructed to point to specific areas of interest and record very high-resolution still images and video)
The building of the constellation starts with the imminent launch of Earth-i’s first prototype satellite (expected later this year), which is being manufactured and launched in partnership with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), part of the Airbus Defence and Space Group and originally spun off from the University of Surrey, which is Europe’s largest academic space campus. This prototype satellite will be used to test performance and confirm capabilities for the future constellation including tasking, data downlinks to ground stations, and image quality and video from space. The new technology has already been subject to extensive testing on an existing R&D satellite launched in 2015. Following a 15-month program of further testing and developing applications, Earth-i is scheduled to launch its first batch of commercial satellites in early 2019.
During the testing and development time, Earth-i will also be developing a cutting-edge service that will enable easy acquisition and analysis of imagery, and use advanced algorithms to extract further value from the data gathered from the constellation.
Richard Blain, CEO of Earth-i, stated that the company is a well-funded, capable and confident business which is now at the forefront of the commercialization of space and the rapid evolution of the New Space market. Earth-i is following a differentiated route to the various industry counterparts and this partnership with OGSystems, and membership of USGIF, are the first steps in ramping up the company's presence in the US. Additionally, he added, the firm has designed and developed this constellation for organizations that need to strike a different balance between the cost of acquiring data from space and access to sufficiently high-resolution quality images and video. Earth-i will enable these organizations to conduct the detailed analysis that will help to further improve their own performance and capabilities.
Blain then reported that owning their own constellation will enable the company to completely customize their various offerings as they will have total control over mission planning and tasking, as well as assured access to their own significant global data source. Earth-i is also pioneering new value-added services and big data analytics that promise to extract the highest value from space data, as well as working with partner organizations to support in the delivery of global services.
Adding his own comments, Josef Aschbacher, the Director of Earth Observation at the European Space Agency, stated there is an almost insatiable demand for data from space as people are realizing its true value to both their planning and daily operations. Higher resolution image data from commercial organizations is likely to be very valuable either in its own right or when used in conjunction with other data sources including medium-resolution image data such as that provided under the European Copernicus Program. The same is also true for data provided under the US Landsat program.
The constellation Earth-i is developing will provide information and critical insights to a range of sectors, including:
- Security, Defense and Intelligence – for border monitoring, activity and asset tracking, target monitoring, object analysis and moving object recognition in connection with national security
- Emergency Response and Disaster Management – for rapid revisits to disaster zones, damage assessment and assisting deployment of response teams
- Energy and Natural Resources – to provide energy companies monitoring and change detection such as shadow analysis of storage tanks, infrastructure monitoring, construction progress, tracking vehicles and activities at mines, ports and refineries
- Financial markets – to provide commodity traders, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial institutions with intelligence on supply chains, commodity stockpiles, global assets, mines, ports, oil fields – and other factors that have demand, supply or financial implications
- National and local government– for urban mapping, infrastructure planning, asset management and land usage
Earth-i is headquartered in the Surrey Research Park in the UK near a number of additional UK space-related companies that include SSTL, as well as the Space Centre at the University of Surrey. The company already has a wide range of big budget customers including The World Bank, National and Local Governments and a multitude of specialist geospatial companies and other commercial organizations.
Earth-i’s team of subject-matter experts, with decades of industry experience, already provide satellite imagery and various analytical services from the DMC3 constellation of three very high-resolution optical satellites and other data sources.
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