Planet Labs, founded by three former NASA scientists, Will Marshall, Robbie Shingler and Chris Boshuizen, have announced they are launching the world's largest fleet of satellites. This project is funded by $13 million dollars that they raised, largely from venture capitalists.
This project will launch a fleet of small, inexpensive satellites called Doves into orbits around the Earth. This will become the world's largest fleet of satellites ever deployed, and launches will begin in early 2014.
These tiny observatories will keep a close eye on our home world, looking for signs of deforestation and wildfires, as well as being able to assist in disaster recovery efforts.
Although there are several orbiting Earth observatories, most are either focused on tiny parts of our planet, like military satellites, or only take very few, low-resolution photos. This new family of satellites is due to watch over the whole planet, allowing meteorologists and farmers, as well as amateur and professional scientists, to have easy access to images and data collected.
The satellites will record images with a resolution between 10 and 16 feet. This will have detail fine enough to detect wildfires and deforestation early on, but will not cause privacy issues. The images will be available to anyone who wishes to use them, for any purpose.
"We're seeing unprecedented innovation in the space industry, starting with SpaceX lowering the cost of access, and now with Planet Labs revolutionizing the satellite segment. As Planet Labs' first outside investor, we are delighted to help the company execute on their unique vision to make the big data landscape of the planet more accessible," Steve Jurvetson of investment firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, said.
The trio of men were each physicists working for NASA when they met at in international conference on how space exploration could directly benefit people.
"We've become used to having imagery of the entire Earth. What we haven't yet understood is how transformative it will be when that imagery is regularly and frequently updated," Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, another venture capitalist firm, said.
Planet Labs, founded in 2010, was formerly known as Cosmogia. They have already launched two imaging satellites into space for testing purposes in April 2013. These are known as Dove 1 and Dove 2, and the first images from those satellites were released to the public on June 26.