Fleet Space Technologies announced September 4 that it has raised more than $7 million in funding, which will be used to expedite expansion plans of its satellite constellation amidst growing consumer demand for its Internet of Things (IoT) services.
Fleet Space particularly has been using satellites that are roughly the size of shoeboxes because they are much cheaper and easier to launch than traditional geo-communications satellites. however, these have still been found to be effective with gathering and calculating for IoT services like tracking construction equipment assets, monitoring pipelines and other utility infrastructure, and more.
The Australian satellite startup says that the $7.35 million round of funding will mainly be used to help launch its next generation of nanosatellites to deliver IoT connectivity to customers globally.
The company intends to use a globe-spanning constellation of its nano-satellites in order to meet customer demand.
Mainly, the demand for IoT services that are driven by commercial companies concerning energy and natural resources applications. “We let the market tell us where the IoT applications are,” Flavia Tata Nardini, co-founder, and chief executive of Fleet, in an interview. “Most of our customers are in the resources, energy, mining applications: a lot of asset tracking and asset management.”
Particularly, Fleet Space takes advantage over the capability of the satellite-based network’s coverage, which works in tandem with ground-based networks. This system helps ensure that there aren’t any blind spots in industries where communication can be hard to come by, such as those from agriculture, forestry, and mining.
According to Fleet, they can offer up to 80% on satellite connectivity using the power of Edge Computing combined with their low-cost satellites.
In other words, they can help improve IoT services by expanding the scope commercial companies have through satellites that can produce calculated data that can be used for analysis and can be implemented into product improvements. It also connects on-ground sensors with those in space.
Furthermore, Nardini says that Fleet has a more flexible approach, working with a range of IoT protocols that allows the collaboration between Earth-based technologies and the ones in space. “We enable these protocols to talk to the sky,” she said. “This is probably why Fleet managed to get so many clients: we use protocols that are developed for terrestrial infrastructures.”
Based on IDC estimates, connected IoT in industrial applications is potentially a huge market, and could be made up of more than 14 billion low-power devices by 2025, Fleet Space says.
Despite the large demand, it also means that there’s also a large need for hardware to effectively connect to, and communicate with, central hubs.
“We really need to launch more satellites very fast, so we decided to go for a new raise,” said Nardini.
Currently, its fleet of satellites consists of a meager mix of four 1.5U and 3U CubeSats, which launched into orbit in 2018.
Proxima I & II launched on Rocketlab’s “It’s Business Time” Mission in November 11, First Centauri satellite on ISRO’s PSLV C43 Missio in November 29, and Second Centauri launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 SSO-A Mission in December 3.
In the future, Nardini says that they will most likely build larger satellites for the next batch of launches. “IoT requires good radios and a lot of interesting technologies to optimize spectrum, so we might go to a slightly bigger spacecraft,” she said. Those satellites, likely another set of four, would launch in mid to late 2020.
This round of funding includes investment from Momenta Ventures and Horizon Ventures, and adds to the previous $5 million AUD ($3.4 million USD) that Fleet Space raised previously from Blackbird Ventures and Grok Ventures, with contribution from the South Australian government, as well as from the Kennard family, owners of an Australian equipment rental company, Kennards Hire, that is also their customer.
Fleet’s main investors believe that Fleet Space has the technology to be able to deliver efficient and reliable IoT services.
“We believe that the next wave of innovation in the connected industry will be powered by low power, wide area networks, and see satellites complementing terrestrial networks to provide coverage anywhere, anytime,” said Lee Carter, from Momenta Ventures, in a statement about the investment.
Horizons Ventures, the investment arm of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, has invested in a range of technology companies and sees Fleet as a way to advance IoT technologies globally. “We are excited to see how Fleet’s technology and the constellation of satellites can become crucial to bringing the possibilities of the IoT to the far reaches of the globe,” said Patrick Poon, director of Horizons Ventures, in a statement.