How space data could transform your technology start-up and why now is the right time to start using it
The Space sector is at a major turning point, and now is the key time for technology ventures to capitalise on the availability and reduced cost of space-derived data.
Right now, this market is opening up rapidly due to the falling price of satellite data. While putting a satellite in space has been highly expensive historically, there are now significant developments drastically cutting the cost of satellite data for end-users.
The reduced expense of space launches, combined with the standardisation and miniturisation of space technologies, is opening up opportunities to a new range of businesses that are delivering new data and services.
- Planetlabs, a US start-up, has launched over 100 small satellites and is delivering regularly updated imagery of the Earth.
- OneWeb’s plans to put a network of 648 small satellites into orbit to provide broadband to every part of the globe.
Major European programmes such as Copernicus and Galileo are delivering widely available new data in Earth Observation and positioning respectively.
Initiatives such as these, combined with the huge amounts of free data available, mean we are only just beginning to see the disruptive role that entrepreneurs can play in this emerging sector.
The explosion of available data is potentially a hugely rich stream for many businesses and organisations. But making it accessible through data access points is crucial to establishing a valuable environment in which expert and novice users can interact with each other, share information, ask questions, make suggestions and access tools to exploit the data.
For example, the Catapult is working with several partners – large and small – to provide a national access point for Sentinel-1 & 2 data through the European Space Agency’s Copernicus programme. This data offers exciting opportunities for scientific research, application development and commercial services, and will be available through the soon-to-be-launched SEDAS platform.
Using the data for downstream applications
So what types of applications are emerging and who could benefit from them? The three main areas are Earth observation, communications and navigation.
The use of Earth Observation data is generating a new era of services, through data and imagery being cheaper, more timely and more accessible. It supports a range of remote monitoring activities including precision farming, environment, transport, maritime, cities, and financial services. The potential is only just being realized and new applications are being developed all the time.
Communications services, through existing satellite players and new ones like OneWeb, will provide unprecedented speeds and low latency access to ships, planes, trains and oil platforms. It can connect the un-connected. Humanitarian organisations could also deliver much faster disaster relief through instantly deployable connectivity. In the aviation arena, in-flight connectivity would be improved, offering benefits to commercial airlines and military aviation customers with airtime services covering weather, navigation and health monitoring of the aircraft.
With regard to navigation, Galileo – Europe’s own global navigation satellite system – provides a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. Made up of 30 navigation satellites, the constellation delivers improved accuracy and resilience, since anyone anywhere in the world will always be in sight of at least four satellites and therefore able to determine their position from the ranging signals broadcast by the satellites. Just imagine what you could do with positioning accuracy of less than 10cm!
What support is available?
The Satellite Applications Catapult is working closely with many partners, including SETsquared, helping foster growth across the economy through the exploitation of space. We have some fantastic facilities and tools, including an operations centre, at our base in Harwell, Oxfordshire, which are available to innovators to help develop product prototypes, as well as test and demonstrate new products.
We also provide tailored services for SMEs, in order to unlock untapped demand, create new opportunities and drive exports. Initiatives such as our business sprints are designed to help companies better understand the scale and scope of their new business or service idea, and translate them into an ambitious yet realistic plan.
If you’re an entrepreneur and you think space data could enhance your current product offering, contact us and we’d be delighted to discuss your idea and advise how to best move it forward.