Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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June 28, 2016
Orbital Insight Announces $20 Million Investment Led by GV for Macro Analysis of Satellite Imagery

PALO ALTO, CA –  Orbital Insight, a geospatial big data company, today announced its $15 million Series B round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures), with participation from CME Ventures, and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, and Bloomberg Beta. Together with an investment and development agreement from In-Q-Tel (IQT), this investment adds $20 million to the company’s funding.

Orbital Insight works at the intersection of big data and the commercialization of space and is the first mover in large-scale analysis of satellite and UAV imagery. The company has developed algorithms to count and measure cars, roads, airplanes, clouds, haze, freshwater lakes, agricultural fields, buildings, and oil tanks to provide a big-picture understanding of the world quantitatively grounded in observation. The company works with more than 60 asset management firms, several U.S. government agencies, and two global non-profit organizations.

With this new round of funding, Orbital Insight plans to continue refining its ability to extract analysis from satellite imagery, improving, for instance, its ability to monitor the global oil supply. The company will also work to expand its range of detectable signals, and will continue hiring top talent in the machine vision and data science fields.

“Orbital Insight’s first two years were spent building a product to change the way people see the world,” said Dr. James Crawford, founder and CEO of Orbital Insight. “Extending our investor partnerships to CME Ventures and In-Q-Tel, and reaffirming our relationship with GV and Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, and Bloomberg Beta positions us well for the future.”

“Orbital Insight has made significant progress in its use of data and satellite imagery for better decision making across a range of verticals, including government, insurance and financial services,” said Andy Wheeler, General Partner at GV. “The team’s expanded product breadth and ability to leverage deep learning techniques to analyze geospatial data and imagery is unparalleled. Orbital Insight has taken important steps in building a better big picture understanding of the world.”

“CME Ventures, the investment arm of CME Group, is pleased to be a strategic investor given our nearly 170 years of experience providing solutions to market participants in a range of sectors in which Orbital Insight operates, including agricultural commodities and energy,” said Rumi Morales, Executive Director CME Ventures.

To obtain its imagery, Orbital Insight has developed unique and powerful partnerships with the companies operating the largest five satellite constellations in the world, including DigitalGlobe, Airbus, Planet Labs, Rapid Eye, and Urthecast. These contracts grant access to petabytes of imagery, and allow Orbital Insight to test and develop algorithms on a higher volume of imagery than almost any organization in history.

“The Orbital Insight solution can help our government customers apply machine learning techniques toward the problem of deriving insight and meaning from the ocean of commercially-available satellite imagery,” said George Hoyem, Partner, Investments at In-Q-Tel. “With the explosion of cubesats and airborne imagery content coming online, humans can no longer process this volume of data but need a product like Orbital Insight to gain actionable insight from that corpus.”

Beyond counting and volumetric measurement, Orbital Insight also works to generate more complex analysis, such as that required for poverty mapping. Partnering with the World Bank to look specifically at Sri Lanka, for instance, Orbital Insight can test which of its tools truly indicate improving conditions by comparing its analysis to the World Bank’s knowledge. Orbital Insight is also working with the World Resources Institute on a project to track, and if possible predict, deforestation. This work could one day form a major part of the enforcement of climate treaties. In addition, the company is developing the means to use satellite imagery to set insurance rates and settle claims for crop insurance in the developing world, a step toward world food security.

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