Planet Labs Raises $95M for Tiny Earth-Observation Satellites

January 23, 2015  - By 0 Comments
A Planet Labs Dove.

A Planet Labs Dove.

San Francisco-based startup Planet Labs has raised $95 million from investors in its latest round of financing. The company’s goal is to provide frequent, inexpensive, high-quality Earth imagery to a variety of customers.

“I’m pleased to announce a first closing of a planned $70 million Series C round led by Data Collective. This financing includes a debt facility of $25 million from Western Technology Investment, bringing the total financing to $95 million,” said co-founder and CEO Will Marshall.

Planet Labs builds Earth-observation satellites that are a mere 12 x 4 x 4 inches. Each of the miniature satellites, which the company calls “Doves,” can capture imagery with a resolution of 10 to 16.5 feet (3 to 5 meters).

Planet Labs, founded in 2010 by three former NASA scientists, has launched 73 Doves into orbit. The first prototypes blasted off in April 2013. In January 2014, Planet Labs delivered Flock 1, a constellation of Earth-imaging satellites made up of 28 Doves. Subsequent launches have increased the current constellation to 71 Doves. The goal is to be able to image the entire Earth every day.

Doves being deployed from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Doves being deployed from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Once the satellites are operational in orbit, they each complete a full circuit of the planet in about 90 minutes, capturing images as they travel. When a satellite makes contact with a ground station in the company’s network, Planet Labs receives images and migrates them to the cloud, as well as transmitting additional instructions to the satellites.

According to the company website, Planet Labs provides commercial and humanitarian value with its global imaging network. Industries supported include geospatial, agriculture, civil government, and natural resources. “Fresh data from any place on Earth is foundational to solving commercial, environmental, and humanitarian challenges,” the website said. “Our global sensing and analytics platform unlocks the ability to understand and respond to change at a local and global scale.”

Planet Labs says it provides the industry’s most frequently updated imagery of any place in the world at 3-5 meter resolution. The data supports customers who need easily accessed, fresh imagery to inform their day-to-day operations, data analysis, and products. Each image is processed through the company’s automated data pipeline and delivered to customers via API and web tools.

“This financing comes in the wake of our successful launch of 73 satellites, customers actively using our data, and the recent hiring of Tom Barton as our chief operating officer. Tom was formerly CEO of Rackable Systems (now SGI) and boasts over 25 years of experience managing and advising hardware and software companies,” Marshall posted on the Planet Labs website. “With strong support from new and returning investors, Tom on board the management team, and a brand new headquarters in the heart of San Francisco, we’re primed to deliver more insights about our changing planet in 2015.”

The Dawesville Channel in Western Australia as seen by a Planet Labs satellite. Photo: Planet Labs

The Dawesville Channel in Western Australia as seen by a Planet Labs satellite. Photo: Planet Labs

The Kashima Industrial Zone is one of the Japan’s largest industrial parks, home to an estimated 1,500 factories. The plant at the image’s center manufactures steel sheets found in home appliances and auto parts. A low-density residential area (upper left) lies just west of the industrial zone. Photo: Planet Labs

The Kashima Industrial Zone is one of the Japan’s largest industrial parks, home to an estimated 1,500 factories. The plant at the image’s center manufactures steel sheets found in home appliances and auto parts. A low-density residential area (upper left) lies just west of the industrial zone. Photo: Planet Labs

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Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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