Close to Area Labs closes $13M Sequence A to ship extra Earth-imaging robots to the stratosphere – TechCrunch

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The lowering value of launch and a slew of different tech improvements have caused a renaissance in geospatial intelligence, with a number of startups aiming to seize higher-quality and extra frequent pictures of Earth than have ever earlier than been obtainable.

Most of those startups, nonetheless, are centered on utilizing satellites to gather knowledge. Not so for Near Space Labs, a four-year-old firm that as an alternative goals to collect geospatial intelligence from the stratosphere, utilizing small autonomous wind-powered robots hooked up to climate balloons. The corporate has named its platform “Swifty,” and every one is able to reaching altitudes between 60,000 and 85,000 toes and capturing 400-1,000 sq. kilometers of images per flight.

The corporate was based in 2017 by Rema Matevosyan, Ignasi Lluch and Albert Caubet. Matevosyan, who’s an utilized mathematician by coaching and beforehand labored as a programmer, did her masters in Moscow. There, she began doing analysis in techniques engineering for aerospace techniques and likewise flew climate balloons to check aerospace {hardware}. “It clicked that we are able to fly balloons commercially and ship a significantly better expertise to prospects than from every other different,” she instructed TechCrunch in a current interview.

4 years after launch, the corporate has closed a $13 million Sequence A spherical led by Crosslink Capital, with participation from Toyota Ventures and current traders Leadout Capital and Wireframe Ventures. Close to Area Labs additionally introduced that Crosslink associate Phil Boyer has joined its board.

Close to Area, which is headquartered in Brooklyn and Barcelona, Spain, is primarily centered on urbanized areas the place change occurs very quickly. The robotic units that connect to the balloons are manufactured on the firm’s workshop in Brooklyn, that are then shipped to launch websites throughout the nation. The corporate’s CTO and chief engineer are each based mostly in Barcelona, so the {hardware} R&D takes place over there, Matevosyan defined.

The corporate presently has eight Swifies in operation. It sells the info it collects and has developed an API via which prospects can entry the info by way of a subscription mannequin. The corporate doesn’t have to have particular launch websites — Matevosyan mentioned Swifties can launch from “anyplace at any time” — however the firm does work in live performance with the Federal Aviation Administration and air site visitors management.

The primary worth proposition of the Swifty versus the satellite tv for pc, based on Matevosyan, is the decision: From the stratosphere, the corporate can acquire “resolutions which can be 50 instances higher than what you’d get from a satellite tv for pc,” she mentioned. “We’re capable of present persistent and close to real-time protection of areas of curiosity that change in a short time, together with giant metro areas.” Plus, she mentioned Close to Area can iterate it’s expertise rapidly utilizing Swifties’ “plug-and-play” mannequin, whereas it’s not really easy so as to add a brand new sensor to a satellite tv for pc fleet that’s already in orbit.

Close to Area Labs founders (from left): Ignasi Lluch, Rema Matevosyan and Albert Caubet. Picture Credit: Near Space Labs (opens in a new window)

Close to Area has booked greater than 540 flights via 2022. Whereas prospects pay for the flights, the info generated from every journey is non-exclusive, so the info may be bought time and again. Wanting forward, the corporate might be utilizing the funds to develop its geographical footprint and produce on a bunch of recent hires. The objective, based on Matevosyan, is to democratize entry to geospatial intelligence — not only for prospects, however on the developer aspect, too. “We consider in numerous, equal and inclusive alternatives in aerospace and Earth imaging,” she mentioned.

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