Firm Markets Drones for Commercial Use

A small New York City-based start-up is positioning itself to be a player in the nascent remote sensing business, an industry expected to be worth several billion dollars by the turn of the century.

Skysat Communications Network Corp. says its system can take spy-quality images from space without expensive satellites, risky rocket launches and the complex operations of satellite-based systems.

small New York City-based start-up is positioning itself to be a player in the nascent remote sensing business, an industry expected to be worth several billion dollars by the turn of the century.

The company has developed an unmanned plane that will take more detailed images than the proposed commercial satellite remote sensing systems due in the next couple years from companies such as Lockheed Space Imaging, GDE and Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences. The drone-like aerial vehicle will also provide commercial telecommunications services.

"The Skysat platform will be able to provide an invaluable service in the telecommunications and imaging arenas," said Martin Fife, chairman and CEO of Skysat. Considering the two-year-old firm is already selling its stock to the public and it doesn't even have a prototype yet, observers are optimistic that Skysat has the business know-how to succeed.

It's rare that a company that doesn't even have its test vehicles built yet would have already completed an initial public offering, said Burton Edelson, director of the Institute for Applied Space Research at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a Skysat board member. But Fife, who sits on the board for Dreyfus mutual funds, "knows his way around Wall Street," Edelson said.

If the technology development goes as well as the financing has, Skysat will be the first to offer commercial unmanned planes similar to the drones used by the U.S. military for reconnaissance. For help developing and demonstrating the plane, Skysat has turned to McLean, Va.-based Cambridge Research Associates, which has a base of defense R&ampD experience. Cambridge and Skysat expect to have the vehicle ready for commercial test by mid-1996 and commercial production of the planes would begin in 1997.

One major market that Fife says Skysat is targeting is the remote sensing business. Skysat is positioning itself to fill a gap between the detailed images that can be taken with aerial photography and the synoptic pictures from satellites. "We have a better mousetrap for certain uses," Fife said.

Skysat images could be used when there isn't a large area to be captured, such as mapping transportation networks and other land use planning, mapping land forms and other major geological units, and for estimating crop yields, timber acreage and assessing damage from fire and other disasters. Skysat's gas-powered plane, which will have the wingspan of a 747 and the weight of an automobile, will stay aloft for about two days snapping images from about 65,000 feet above the Earth.

Although he hadn't heard of Skysat specifically, William French, executive director of Bethesda, Md.-based American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, said the technology could compete with satellites in the imaging business, especially for customers who want to use the space data for mapping and building geographic information systems, French said. But the trick, he said, is coverage. A two-day mission won't give you the total picture of a region, he said, and satellites will.

The $40 million Skysat system will consist of the ground station, two subspace platforms and spare parts. According to the company, Skysat's system is a less expensive alternative to satellite imaging, but one representative from the remote sensing industry questioned Skysat's calculations, suggesting "it's real easy for anyone to say that, but the proof is in the pudding."

In addition to Earth imaging, the unmanned aerial vehicle will also be able to coordinate communications with a new generation of communications satellites, such as low-Earth-orbit satellite systems that are expected to be flying before the end of the century.


NEXT STORY: Beltway Biz

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.