Geospatial data packs a wealth of insights, but they’re often concealed beneath the surface. Particularly elusive are those arising from synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), a form of satellite radar data that is used to create two-dimensional or three-dimensional reconstructions of objects. SAR comes from disparate satellites strewn throughout orbit that alone aren’t capable of revealing much. But fused together by an intelligent software layer, they become invaluable sources of business intelligence.
At least, that’s the assertion of Ursa, an Ithica, New York-based startup that recently secured $15 million in a series B round led by Razor’s Edge Ventures (with participation from new strategic investors and existing investors Citi, Empire State Developments’ New York Ventures, Paladin Capital Group, RRE Ventures, and S&P Global ). Ursa is developing a platform that aggregates data from a network of satellites and fuses it with other data sources, which it delivers to customers in a range of markets.
CEO Adam Maher said this latest round of funding, which brings Ursa’s total raised to nearly $30 million, will be used to support its growing customer space and “[the] vision of turning data into a product.”
“Ursa was founded after witnessing the disconnect between information-rich satellite data and those who could really use it. That desire to connect information and people, information we know can make a difference, is what fuels us every day to innovate and break new grounds in global intelligence,” said former SSL engineer Maher, who cofounded Ursa in 2014 with Derek Edinger, Julie Baker, and a team of radar engineering, cloud computing, and networking professionals. “As [we continue] to build on our technology, we’ve identified a number of other opportunities to pursue high-value markets and customers that have not historically leveraged the power of SAR and would benefit from these insights.”
Ursa claims SAR offers advantages over other forms of imagery, in that it’s impervious to interference from clouds, fog, and haze both day and night. That’s a key differentiation in the nearly $8 billion geospatial imagery analytics market, which is chock-full of competitors, like San Francisco-based Cape Analytics (which recently raised $17 million) and Descartes Labs ($20 million).
From Ursa’s data portal, customers can request reports on-demand to answer specific questions about global oil inventories, infrastructure construction, and other topics. The company’s in-house analytics team tracks factors like pipeline construction and oil flow from new refineries to gain foresight into markets in China, the Caribbean, the Middle East, North African, Asia-Pacific, and the U.S.. And Ursa says it uses a combination of automation and quality assurance testing to verify the data coming in (e.g., car counts, ship tracking, and sea ice and glacier changes), supported by best analysis sharing practices.
“The satellite industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation, not unlike what happened in enterprise computing 20 years ago,” said RRE general partner and COO Will Porteous. “Open interfaces and data fusion are enabling a massive amount of value to be defined in software. Ursa is leading the industry in this approach, and we are proud to be associated with the company.”