Impact Observatory applies deep learning algorithms to imagery obtained by the European Space Agency Copernicus Sentinel satellites to update maps and monitor change. Credit: Impact Observatory

SAN FRANCISCO – Impact Observatory, a company that applies artificial intelligence to satellite imagery for mapping and monitoring, raised $5.9 million in seed funding.

With the funding announced March 29, Washington-based Impact Observatory is introducing a commercial space-based monitoring service.

“We are offering people the ability to take out a subscription for persistent monitoring for anywhere in the world,” Steve Brumby, Impact Observatory CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews.

To date, Impact Observatory has produced annually updated global maps as digital public goods, or freely available digital tools. That work will continue. In addition, nonprofit organizations will have access to Impact Observatory monitoring products at discounted prices.

Esri is the only seed round investor Impact Observatory is naming.

Impact Observatory maps and monitoring tools are available to Esri customers. Impact Observatory also works with Microsoft’s Planetary Computer and AWS SageMaker.

Ten-meter resolution data from the European Space Agency Copernicus constellation currently feeds Impact Observatory maps.

“We can run deep-learning algorithms faster than the satellite constellations can collect” data,” Brumby said. As a result, Impact Observatory can “produce essentially a living map of the world,” he added.

In the future, Impact Observatory may bring in data from other satellite operators.

“We are actually talking to a number of commercial space companies at the moment to take this capability and apply it at higher spatial resolution and also apply it to all-weather sensors from synthetic aperture radar constellations,” Brumby said.

The Copernicus constellation supplies global imagery every five days. With the addition of Landsat data, Impact Observatory maps could be updated every two and half days. Commercial datasets could lead to daily mapping and monitoring, Brumby said.

Brumby, a former co-founder of Descartes Labs and member of the U.S. Interior Department Landsat Advisory Group, established Impact Observatory in 2020 with Sam Hyde, former senior program manager in National Geographic’s Geographic Visualization Lab.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...