‘EarthNow’ is a proposed constellation of specialised satellites capable of providing “live and unfettered” continuous footage of almost anywhere on Earth. Investors in the project include Bill Gates, Japan’s media giant SoftBank, Airbus Industries and Greg Wyler, CEO at OneWeb (in which SoftBank and Airbus have stakes).
The company was formed in 2017 having been spun out of Intellectual Ventures, an incubator fund. Launch dates are a little vague, other than EarthNow says the system will eventually reach “hundreds of satellites”.
EarthNow says it has completed its first round of financing, adding: “The initial funding focuses primarily on maturing the overall system design to deliver innovative and unique real-time Earth observation services.”
According to EarthNow’s founder and CEO, Russell Hannigan, “EarthNow is ambitious and unprecedented, but our objective is simple; we want to connect you visually with Earth in real-time. We believe the ability to see and understand the Earth live and unfiltered will help all of us better appreciate and ultimately care for our one and only home.”
EarthNow will tap into the skill sets achieved in building a lower-cost satellite under mass production techniques (and developed for OneWeb). Initially, EarthNow will offer commercial video and intelligent vision services to a range of government and enterprise customers. Applications include catching illegal fishing in the act, watching hurricanes and typhoons as they evolve, detecting forest fires the moment they start, watching volcanoes the instant they start to erupt, assisting the media in telling stories from around the world, tracking large whales as they migrate, helping “smart cities” become more efficient, providing on-demand data about crop health, and observing conflict zones around the world.
In parallel, EarthNow plans to create compelling “live Earth video” mass market applications that can be accessed instantly from a smartphone or tablet. “We are excited by the prospect of giving everyone a stunningly-beautiful real-time window on your world from space. With EarthNow, we will all become virtual astronauts,” said Hannigan.
The project says the images will be in “real time” with a delay of only one second. The fleet of satellites being proposed means that at least one EarthNow satellite will always be above areas of coverage. “This means it will be possible to observe specific locations on Earth continuously,” said the company.