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Last Week in Earth Observation: July 10, 2023
Lightning from space, demystifying flood modelling, EO investment trends in climate tech, commercial flight records on the hottest day and more.
Welcome to a new edition of ‘Last Week in Earth Observation’, containing a summary of major developments in EO from last week and some thoughts on the sector I have come to love.
In this edition: Lightning from space, demystifying flood modelling, EO investment trends in climate tech, commercial flight records on the hottest day and more.
PS. I am on my way to the Esri User Conference in San Diego. Send me a note if you are there and want to meet up.
Four Curated Things
Major developments in EO from the past week
1. Contractual Stuff: Funding, Contracts and Deals 💰
HawkEye360, which operates a constellation of satellites monitoring radio frequency signals, won a contract from the government of Australia to help detect illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands;
Kayrros, which uses EO data for environmental monitoring, was awarded a contract by the French space agency CNES to evaluate the feasibility of using satellite imagery for wildfire monitoring (in French);
The UK and the EU have agreed on a draft proposal (subject to approval) that would keep the UK in the bloc’s Copernicus EO programme;
Poland and Germany announced their national space budgets, with the former increasing its share to ESA and the latter cutting overall spending on space, both of which should have impacts on the EO market within the respective countries and for Europe.
2. Strategic Stuff: Partnerships and Announcements 📈
EO company Satellogic and European aerospace leader OHB have signed a partnership agreement for the development of joint EO applications;
Infrastructure monitoring startup Asterra is partnering with SkyFi with an aim to integrate its solution within the latter’s EO platform;
EO analytics startup Impact Observatory is collaborating with Planet to leverage its data for providing land cover and land use solutions;
ESA and EUMETSAT released the first images from the lightning imager onboard the Meteosat Third Generation satellite, launched in December.
3. Interesting Stuff: More News 🗞️
The China-Africa Cooperation Centre on Satellite Remote Sensing Application, aimed at using EO for sustainable development of natural resources in Africa, was launched at an event in Beijing;
China will also be launching two different EO satellites for Egypt by the end of this year, made possible through a capacity-building partnership;
The Philippine Space Agency signed a cooperation agreement with the European Commission on the Copernicus programme, enabling the country to distribute and use data from Copernicus for socioeconomic development.
4. Click-Worthy Stuff: Check These Out 🔗
This piece, which makes a solid argument on why Australia cancelling its national EO programme was the right thing to do (last year, I posted a list of questions to ponder for countries launching sovereign EO programmes);
This article I wrote for EO platform startup SkyFi providing an overview of the applications of satellite imagery for the finance sector (the infographic below covers the highlights).
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One Discussion Point
Analysis, thoughts, and insights on developments in EO
5. EO Investment Trends in Climate Tech
Last week, I shared some analysis on the investments in EO (go check it out, if you haven’t already). This week, I would like to continue the discussion while sticking to the same subject. The good folks at Climate Tech VC (CTVC), the go-to resource for all things climate tech, shared some insights on investment trends in climate tech. As some of you might be aware, EO is an essential part of the climate tech market (if you are looking for a primer on EO for climate, read this deep-dive from TerraWatch and/or this one from CTVC that I collaborated on).
Analysis from CTVC showed that companies within EO and EO-related segments raised over $5.5B in venture capital funding in the past three years, which is roughly 5% of overall investments in climate. However, with respect to the number of companies, there were at least 240 EO and EO-dependent startups that have raised funds from a total of 2,400 startups in the climate-tech space. This analysis complements the analysis shared in the newsletter last week - while emphasising the need for more investments in the Applications layer as well as more efforts to make EO usable, fusable and analysable.
Scene from Space
Two visuals leveraging EO
6. Hottest Day on Record
Our planet recorded its hottest day on record last Thursday July 6, making it the fourth straight warmest day globally. Data from NOAA (and ECMWF) showed that the global average temperature was measured to be 17.23°C, which is 1.02°C above the average for the date, and a slight increase from July 5, which already was a record at 17.18°C. This follows the hottest June on record, unprecedented North Atlantic warmth and record low Antarctic sea ice.
Even though this is preliminary data based on NOAA’s model (eventually expected to be verified with ECMWF’s reanalysis), these measurements are from a combination of data sources including land surface stations, weather balloons, satellite measurements and ocean buoys. If you are wondering how we can make conclusions about climate change and our role in it just with such observations, then this is a good introductory read. Scientists report that the El Niño phenomenon and climate change were combining to boost temperatures.
And, here is one compelling analogy on this subject, from this piece:
As with, say, 100-meter dash records in seconds, temperature records in degrees should be broken in tenths, really hundredths--not integer values.If this were the world of track and field, a new record of this extremity would prompt immediate concerns about doping. The runner is fast, but no way is he or she THAT fast.
7. Most Commercial Flights Tracked on a Single Day
I know I shared one of these images a few weeks ago, but I am compelled to share this image from last week originally shared by FlightRadar24, a Swedish company that provides real-time aircraft flight tracking information, leveraging data from navigation satellites, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) sensors and other sources.
The company claimed they tracked 134,386 commercial flights on July 6, apparently the highest on a single day - the figure includes all the usual flights most of us take, and does not include private jets, helicopters, military activity or other business aircraft. Yes, this is the same day that was also marked as the hottest day on the planet (see above).
One Podcast Episode
While the TerraWatch Space podcast is on a break, going forward, I will be sharing one episode that I enjoyed listening to, that is (of course) related to EO
8. Satellite Imagery for Sustainable Agriculture
Regrow is one of my favourite companies that are part of what I segment as the “Application” layer of EO, meaning they use satellite imagery along with other data sources to solve a vertical-specific problem. In their case, they use insights derived from EO to offer crop insights and a monitoring, reporting, and verification solution, enabling the transition towards sustainable agriculture.
Regrow is one of the many companies that are the end-users of EO that have nailed the “so what” aspect of insights derived from EO. The company has raised over $60M in funding and works with some big names in ag such as Kellogg’s, Cargill and General Mills. In this episode, founder and CEO Anastasia Volkova talk about how satellite imagery enables their product, how they translate the information derived from EO into insights for customers and some context on why all of this matters. Give it a listen, if you are interested in EO for agriculture!
Until next time,
This means lightning can be continuously monitored from space for the first time over Europe & Africa. And, this data, when integrated into weather forecasting models, will improve real-time storm forecasting in the two continents.
I did not officially review the source data used or the taxonomy of the segmentation beyond what is publicly shared by CTVC. While some companies in their category may not be users of EO at this point, and others might not be companies that deal with satellites or satellite data, I believe their category “Climate Management” is the most relevant segment for EO and is comparable to figures from my analysis.
Quite ironic - I am writing this during a flight to San Diego. Am I supposed to convince myself that my trip is needed to grow my business? Am I supposed to feel slightly better, in comparison to others, because I had never flown a plane until I was 23? I don’t know, but I do make an effort to not consciously fly unless I must!