Planet Labs buys geospatial companies from BlackBridge

Steven Loeb · July 15, 2015 · Short URL:

The acquisition will allow Planet Labs to continue its vision of imaging the entire planet

When satellite deployment company Planet Labs raised a big $118 million funding round earlier this year, the company said that it envisioned myriad uses for its technology, in a slew of new industries and spaces, including financial markets and disaster response. The idea is to provide a clearer image of the entire planet.

Now the company is putting that plan into motion through a strategic acquisition, having just purchased geospatial companies from BlackBridge, including the RapidEye suite of core offerings, it was announced on Wednesday. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

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."

The deal will allow Planet Labs to gain access to RapidEye’s archive of six years of global imagery, which covers six billion square kilometers of land. 

"Planet’s goal is to provide universal access to information about our changing planet through a platform that includes the daily imaging data from Planet’s fleet of satellites, along with data from various other sources," Will Marshall, the Co-Founder and CEO of Planet Labs, wrote in a blog post.

"With the recent incorporation of Landsat 8 imagery into our dataset, and soon RapidEye, Planet is proud to continue progress toward these goals."

The  Lethbridge, Alberta-based BlackBridge says that it is "focused on providing end to end solutions across the geospatial value chain," including satellite operations, ground station services, data center and geocloud solutions, and worldwide satellite imagery distribution through over 100 partners.

In his own post, Ryan Johnson, CEO of BlackBridge, outlined three reasons why the two companies were a good fit.

First, he said, the two companies have an "alignment of vision."

"We have spent a significant amount of time with the Planet Labs management team over the past few months and feel that we are completely aligned on the long-term vision for the company and the role that BlackBridge will play," said Johnson. 

"The fundamental belief that 'we can use earth observation to benefit the world' is central to every conversation we have with Planet. With the combined capabilities of our RapidEye constellation and the Planet Labs constellation, we will truly be 'delivering the world' every day."

Second is the Planet Labs team, which he said have been "exceptional and have been great to work with."

And, finally, is Planet Labs' vision, which will "provide our company a long-term strategic advantage."

"It wasn't until I met with the Planet Labs team, in person, in their San Francisco headquarters and they walked me through their strategy, capabilities, and technology road map that I realized that this was a company that had a unique different set of capabilities. I believe that these capabilities will position our company differently and help us create a long-term strategic advantage," he said.

"This agile aerospace approach will allow them to launch hundreds of satellites over the next two years, providing daily imaging of the entire planet and rapidly introduce new capabilities like multispectral channels and enhanced resolutions faster and more cost effectively than we could bring similar capabilities to market with a traditional aerospace program."

Going forward, it seems that not much is going to change for BlackBridge, which will continue operating and serving customers as usual. In the near term, its customers will be able to take advantage of Planet Labs' platform and a new imagery source in addition to BlackBridge's existing offerings. 

Once the deal is final, BlackBridge and the RapidEye assets will be folded into Planet Labs and the respective teams will work together, but mainly continue work on their existing work streams. The RapidEye constellation will continue operating at full capacity. Customers will continue to have access to the complete RapidEye archive and new imagery acquisitions.

The combined total employees of Planet and BlackBridge will be 309 and for the foreseeable future the company plans to keep BlackBridge’s Berlin and Lethbridge offices open with business as usual. There are no planned staff reductions. 

BlackBridge had raised a $22 million funding round from the Bank of Montreal and the Business Development Bank of Canada in May of last year.

(Image source: NASA)

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