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Planet Labs makes smaller satellites, called Doves, in order to more clearly map the planet
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(Updated with comment from Planet Labs)
When we think of satellites, most of us picture giant, hulking chunks of metal hurling through space. What if those same satellites could actually much smaller? Not only would that allow for more of them to go up, but it would also send back a much clearer picture of the planet.
That is the idea behind Planet Labs, a space and analytics company that has designed its own fleet of satellites, called Doves, which it says is "the largest ever fleet of earth-imaging satellites, working around the clock to create a more transparent and accessible planet."
It's an really intriguing idea, and it's caught the eye of the venture capital market as well. The company announced on Monday that it has closed its Series C round of funding at $118 million.
That is the second close on the round; it has previously raised $70 million, led by Data Collective, with participation from new and existing investors in January, while also closing a debt facility of $25 million from Western Technology Investment at the same time.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a division of the World Bank Group, was the lead investor in the most recent funding, which Planet Labs says validates it " as a company attracting international interest and can help us connect with potential partners in emerging economies.
The company has now raised roughly $188 million in venture funding.
Founded in 2010, Planet Labs uses its fleet of satellites to provide imagery for a variety of industries and verticals, including agricultural, civil government, and mapping.
It says data supports "customers who need easily accessed, fresh imagery to inform their day-to-day operations, data analysis, and products," it says on the company's website. "Each image is processed through our automated data pipeline and delivered to customers via API and web tools."
In January 2014, Planet Labs delivered Flock 1, a constellation of Earth-imaging satellites, made up of 28 Doves. Now, with subsequent launches, it has launched 71 Doves.
A big part of Planet Labs' mission seems to be philanthropic.
"Fresh data from any place on Earth is foundational to solving commercial, environmental, and humanitarian challenge," it writes. "Our global sensing and analytics platform unlocks the ability to understand and respond to change at a local and global scale."
The new funding will go toward scaling its satellite constellation, supporting business development, sales, and to develop its data products.
"The funding will be used to continue satellite and product development and to grow sales and business development teams. Planet has deployed over 50 satellites and plans to far exceed this number; in fact, we have 14 satellites aboard Space X's rocket that was scheduled (and delayed due to weather) to launch yesterday," the company told me. "Planet Labs envisions myriad uses of its data and imagery, including use in agriculture, financial markets, disaster response, environmental action and many more."
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