How the Rapidly Evolving Satellite & UAV Industry is Opening up a New Kind of Analytics

Posted on Posted in Blog, Drones & UAVs, Emerging Technologies, News & Research

There’s something happening up there.

Orbiting above us, quietly, but strategically, are a growing number of satellites that are capturing & transmitting exponentially more data than ever before.

What’s different about the satellites that have been built and launched in the last 10 years, is that they are getting cheaper, smaller & easier to launch due to the global IT & telecom industries which have miniaturized and brought the cost of computing & RF-technologies down significantly, while private space launch providers such as SpaceX are making it possible for small-cap firms to build satellite operations with a global footprint.

One of those companies, Urthecast (said ‘Earth-cast’), is building out a massive constellation of powerful Earth Observation satellites that, if successful, will be capable of imaging the entire global landmass (145 million sq/km) every day in 5 metre resolution (GSD). The ability to get guaranteed revisits, on that scale, will allow for change detection and monitoring of things like water & farmland on a scale that is hard to conceive. Every farmer on the planet could conceivably see their field change day-by-day, week-by-week, and season-by-season. Potential applications far beyond water & agriculture are obvious (environmental monitoring, infrastructure planning, economic intelligence, etc.)

Satellites & Drones – A Natural Fit

Urthecast has been saying said that GeoAnalytics will be like the next GPS.

In an excellent analysis published by Danny Deadlock from, the author points out that Urthecast is capitalizing on the convergence of a number of important trends:

  • a reduction in the cost of building satellites thanks to new, ultrafast space-qualifiable micro-electronics
  • a reduction in launch costs thanks to a newly competitive international commercial launch industry 
  • the emergence of massive low-cost cloud computing services
  • the maturation of the internet for large-scale global data distribution
  • the emergence of many new and powerful “big data” predictive analytics and GeoAnalytics algorithms
  • the massive growth in hand-held devices that provide near ubiquitous mobile and in-situ computational decision support to governments, businesses, and consumers
  • the rapidly accelerating growth in demand for “big data” information solutions in a wide variety of domains, including agriculture, forestry, water management, mining, infrastructure planning, environmental monitoring, transportation, shipping, security, taxation, industrial production growth prediction, urban planning, traffic, and insurance

The potential for this high quality satellite data to be combined with aerial data from drones is intriguing.

Done right, the combination of macro-scale data from satellite imagery, with the potential for micro-scale data from drones and terrestrial sensors present powerful opportunities for engineers, analysts & managers to develop insights and overviews not previously possible.

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