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04th Jan 2022

Detecting Thermal Footprints with Satellite Vu

Jessica Farrow

Satellite Vu, is helping to achieve global net-zero, by launching thermal infrared imaging satellites into space, that will be able to provide near real-time thermal data of any building on the planet. We spoke to Alex Gow, Sales Director at Satellite Vu to understand how their innovative technology is enabling users to detect building temperatures from space.

A unique concept

“Our concept is a unique capability that doesn’t exist currently on the market, it’s a high-resolution thermal infrared imaging constellation. In simplistic terms, our images have the capability to detect the temperature measurement of any structure on Earth. We can compare thermal footprints of similar surrounding buildings and houses and identify which structures are using more energy, need better insulation and the data can be used as a guide to where improvements are needed.”

Satellite Vu’s first satellite is due to be launched into a low earth orbit in Q4 2022. Historically you have a shorter life on a satellite launched into a lower orbit because there is more friction and supplies don’t survive as long. However, a lower orbit means closer proximity to Earth, which is advantageous as its cheaper to access space, alongside delivering higher resolution images.

Who is the Target of Satellite Vu?

“On one side there is the Defence or National Security, where there are major applications in identifying activity within structures. On the flip side, there is a lot of interest in net-zero or climate application, whether this is Governments wanting data to validate energy use or potentially as a means to go out and identify structures that are wasting energy. Our technology can identify which buildings or industries are significantly contributing to the heat and determine where changes need to be implemented. Thermal imagery also allows us to regularly repeat, revisit and monitor industrial locations. It could also be utilised by financial institutions that have an ESG obligation, who can evaluate the range of emissions that are coming from companies they are investing in, by using the satellite data to look at a portfolio of assets that are dispersed, to evaluate the impact that the company/organisation is having.

Our data can also be optimised for investigating water monitoring and pollution. Industries use water to cool their processes and then pass the water back into watercourses. Our data can review the water discharge that is going back into water bodies and identify the thermal plume hitting the watercourse, which is a major concern for fisheries.”

Evidence from space

Climate change is a major focus for Satellite Vu. The societal climate environment is influencing technology developments and national priorities. Already there are governments implementing sensors to detect climate impact or commercial organisations implementing technology to detect methane and carbon dioxide. The collective mindset towards environmental consciousness means there is a greater need for technology and innovations that will help build a better future.

A major application for Satellite Vu is detecting how a city is responding to their recent temperature reduction targets. Building emissions need to halved by 2030, to be on track for the net-zero goal and Satellite Vu’s technology could identify those locations that have higher than average heat loss.

“I believe the greater focus towards sustainability in Earth observation is being powered by the cost of accessing space. Historically, only Government and Defence sectors were able to fund expensive launches of highly technical and capable satellites. Commercial markets are now able to develop cheaper technology that adapts quickly to launch into lower orbits and doesn’t have a huge footprint. Meaning new entrants with great sustainable applications are able to enter the market with fewer barriers.”

The future of satellites

“In five years, we will see changes in how data is moved and processed, with quicker data relays. It’s an exciting opportunity for new space companies as it opens the door to new applications. Historically it would take 24 hours to get hold of an image, whereas now it only takes around 90 minutes but with a data relay, this will be available in minutes. Also, onboard processing is developing, instead of having to transfer heavy data files, the processing can be completed on the satellite and instead send the answer instantaneously. Onboard processing is doubling the number of test constellations and in the next five to ten years this will become standard. Artificial intelligence on satellites will advance how technology is updated and processed on the satellite.

The development time for space technology is also rapidly reducing. Previously it would take five years to plan, and then another four or five years to build and then launch your satellite, meaning you are then working on ten-year-old technology and sending it into space. Now you can build and launch within a couple of months.”

Reaching for the stars

The Earth observation market is growing, with huge changes seen in who utilises the data.

“EO is rapidly expanding, with new technologies and different applications and I expect lots of providers will end up merging together to solve global problems collaboratively. Aerospace is opening to industries that historically may not have used Earth observation. Insurance, finance, investment and trading are untapped markets that can benefit hugely from space-based data.”

It is an exciting time for Satellite Vu, and we cannot wait to hear about their first satellite launch.

If you are an innovator within the aerospace industry, get in touch as we would love to hear from you!