Scaling Earth Imaging Operations
Urban Sky, a budding stratospheric balloon company, has successfully closed a $9.75 million Series A funding round. This funding is set to be channeled towards scaling its Earth imaging operations and broadening its data product offerings. The 14-member startup, which has been primarily operating in the Rocky Mountain region, has already garnered millions in revenue through its tasking missions. However, the company’s vision extends far beyond its current operations. With the new funding, Urban Sky is poised to routinely update its data catalog, focusing on densely populated regions and other areas of significant interest to its clientele.
Diversifying Sensor Offerings
Serving a diverse range of sectors, including environmental monitoring, insurance, and the oil and gas industry, Urban Sky is not just resting on its laurels. The company is in the process of developing additional sensors to enhance its service offerings. While it currently provides natural color optical images, the company is also venturing into near-infrared imagery and long-wave infrared imagery. Notably, their innovative sensor, dubbed “HotSpot,” has been successfully tested to monitor wildfires in real-time, a feat achieved with support from NASA and the Air Force.
A Unique Approach to Remote Sensing
Urban Sky’s CEO, Andrew Antonio, highlighted the company’s distinct approach compared to other remote sensing firms utilizing stratospheric balloons. The Denver-based startup has pioneered the development of small, reusable stratospheric balloons, which can be conveniently deployed from a standard pickup truck. This innovative combination of reusability and mobility has significantly reduced operational costs. Drawing a parallel to SpaceX’s groundbreaking reusable rocket boosters, Antonio envisions Urban Sky as the “SpaceX of the stratosphere.”
The Genesis of Urban Sky
Founded in 2019 by Antonio and CTO Jared Leidich, the duo’s collaboration traces back to their time at World View, a company specializing in high-altitude stratospheric balloons. Their inspiration, however, predates this, stemming from their involvement in Paragon Space Development’s StratEx program. During this program, they recognized the potential of small balloon architectures for remote sensing, laying the foundation for Urban Sky.
One of Urban Sky’s standout features is its emphasis on reusability. While other companies often end balloon missions by destroying them, Urban Sky has patented a unique termination and descent mechanism, ensuring the balloons remain intact post-mission. This focus on sustainability has enabled the company to offer competitive pricing, with costs per image being significantly lower than industry counterparts.
Predicting Flight Paths with Precision
Urban Sky’s innovation isn’t limited to just balloons. The company has also developed a simulator for stratospheric flight profiles, enabling accurate predictions of balloon flight paths. This software aids in determining the optimal launch point based on the desired imaging area, ensuring precision in every mission.
Backing from Prominent Investors
The Series A funding round witnessed participation from notable investors, including New Legacy Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Lavrock Ventures, Catapult Ventures, Union Labs VC, DA Ventures, and TenOneTen Ventures, underscoring the industry’s confidence in Urban Sky’s vision and potential.
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