In recent years, a significant increase in private investments and robust government support in space are fueling rapid innovations and expansion of the ecosystem. Looking ahead, we believe the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) with other innovations is one of the most disruptive technology trends. AI is transforming the entire space ecosystem, from manufacturing to in-orbit operations such as collision avoidance and optimization of spectral efficiency. AI on-board processing would enable more timely delivery of insights from space. Moreover, AI on the ground could optimize satellite mission control and management of mega-constellations. Most importantly, AI is enabling extraction of valuable insights from all the new geospatial data. This is transforming not just the space industry but is also revolutionizing global enterprises and government operations. Even the Pentagon has declared AI a national priority and is seeking partnerships with tech giants and startups to accelerate AI adoption across all operations.
Drowning in Data, But This is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
Until recently, space was dominated by governments using large and expensive exquisite satellites. But now the satellite industry has significantly lower barriers to entry with the onset of the small sat revolution which is driving an explosion of new data with higher resolution and revisit. In addition, growing drone fleets, Internet of Things (IoTs) and new sensors are collecting ever more data of the earth that it has become humanly impossible to manage, let alone analyze. With close to 1,500 new earth observation (EO) small satellites expected to be launched in the coming years, the explosion of data we are currently experiencing is just the beginning. This is in addition to the 400 plus small sats already launched by startups like Planet and Spire over the last five years.
New Sensors are Driving Even More Data and New Applications
New sensors such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Hyperspectral, Infrared, Automated Identification System (AIS), and Radio Frequency (RF) Sensing are delivering new data sets to complement traditional optical imagery, enabling new commercial applications through advanced analytics. SAR, unlike optical, can capture imagery in all weather conditions, at night and through clouds. SAR startups include ICEYE, Capella, and Umbra Lab etc. Hyperspectral imaging can be used to find objects and identify materials with applications in oil and gas, mining, and agriculture. Startups building hyperspectral constellations are Satellogic, NorthStar Earth & Space and HyperSat. Infrared (IR) or thermal imaging is complementary to other sensors; SatelliteVU, ConstelIR and Koolock are building IR constellations for weather forecasting, environmental monitoring, and defense applications.