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Satellogic plans ‘constellation’ with potential ag uses

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Satellogic has sent three satellites into space already. It plans to create a” constellation” of satellites the company says will supply farmers and others with useful, affordable data every day by the second half of 2015.

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“Imagine you wake up every day and get on your phone or laptop or tablet and see a fresh image of what’s going on in every field...,” says Emiliano Kargieman, founder and CEO of Satellogic, an Argentinean startup company with headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. He talked with Agweek in a phone interview. “Our goal is to turn agriculture into data-science and help farmers’ daily decision-making everywhere.”

The constellation — initially 10 to 15 satellites, and ultimately several hundred — will use multispectral cameras to make images of every spot on Earth every few minutes. Satellogic’s “mesh” network, which allows the satellites to stay in constant communication, will monitor biomass and critical infrastructures and recognize environmental changes in real time, the company says.

Farmers will be able to tap into the information with cell phones or other mobile technology.

Prices haven’t been decided yet, but the company says it’s determined to keep its costs down to make its data affordable to farmers.

The price of existing satellite imagery is “prohibitive” for many farmers. “If we want this imagery to be available to small famers on an everyday basis, we have to do it at a price that’s affordable,” Kargieman says.

The potential role of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, is a hot topic in the Upper Midwest.

Drones will have a role in supplying images, but they’ll be more expensive than what satellites can provide, Kargieman says.

“In the long run, you’ll have a combination of images from different sources. (But) you can cover a lot more ground for a much, much lower cost (with satellite imagery). In the end, we’ll be much more affordable,” he says.

Satellite imagery has the reputation of sometimes being difficult for farmers to understand and utilize. Kargieman says he thinks Satellogic’s technology will be easier for farmers to use.

“The key is, delivering analysis to go along with the images themselves,” he says. “What’s valuable to farmers is the whole set.”

Several companies are planning extensive Earth-imaging constellations of their own, according to published reports.

One of them, Skybox Imaging, was purchased by Google earlier this summer.

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