SAN FRANCISCO – Nuview, a startup planning to establish a constellation of light detection and ranging (lidar) satellites, announced investments from U.S. and European venture capital funds as well as actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.
“We see a lot of opportunity in collaborating with Mr. DiCaprio over the next several years in raising awareness both at the national level and with groups like the United Nations and the World Bank,” Clint Graumann, Nuview CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews.
Orlando, Florida-based Nuview is not yet disclosing how much money it has raised. TechCrunch reported June 6 that the startup has raised $15 million to date, including $12 million in an ongoing Series A round.
Participants in The Series A round, led by MaC Venture Capital, include Broom Ventures, Cortado Ventures, Florida Funders, Industrious, Liquid2 and Veto Capital.
Since Nuview, founded in 2021, emerged from stealth mode in May, the company has revealed a $2.75 million contract from National Security Innovation Capital, an organization established in 2021 in the Defense Innovation Unit to support early-stage startups developing dual-use technology. In addition, Nuview has $1.1 billion in early adopter agreements promising customers speedy access to geospatial data gathered by its planned constellation of 20 dishwasher-size satellites, Graumann said.
Nuview plans to launch a Space Proof of Concept Satellite, called Mr. Spoc, in a little more than two years. The satellite will provide data to Nuview early adopters.
“After that, we are going to launch 20 commercial satellites, five at a time,” Graumann said.
To date, lidar data has been gathered by airborne platforms and government satellites like NASA’s IceSat-2 launched in 2018. In recent years, a key sensor Nuview plans to fly was declassified.
“When you combine that with some of our proprietary technology around wide-area monitoring, that gives us some unique capabilities,” Graumann said.
Paul McManamon, Nuview chief science officer and former chief scientist for the Air Force Research Lab’s Sensors Directorate, has applied for or been granted more than two dozen patents, many related to optics and photonics. Jack Hild, former National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency deputy director of source operations, is a Nuview senior advisor. Nuview’s chief technology officer, Patrick Baker, has worked extensively with aircraft-based lidar.
“We picked one of the harder challenges that you can pick for Earth observation, but we hired the best people in the business to do it,” Graumann said.
After years of working with geospatial data providers and customers through TerraMetric, a consulting firm Graumann also leads, he co-founded Nuview to satisfy widespread demand for lidar.
“No matter what type of dataset we were working with, whether it was optical, radar, thermal or hyperspectral, the customers always mentioned lidar,” Graumann said. “They said, ‘If we could get lidar data as the foundation for what we’re building, everything would be better.’”
Lidar is popular because of its precision.
“Every collection with lidar is in 3D natively,” Graumann said. “It enables us to see through a canopy of trees to get a 3D rendering of what’s beneath. You can create surface models at the top of the canopy as well as terrain models of what’s below in one collection.”
And Nuview’s lidar will offer centimeter-level accuracy, Graumann said.
While lidar data is often collected by aircraft, Graumann has observed “pent up demand for lidar data” of places that are “challenging to fly a plane over.”
Earth observation data has important environmental applications.
Leonardo DiCaprio established a nonprofit foundation in 1998 to support organizations protecting wildlife, preserving threatened ecosystems and addressing climate change.
Nuview expects its data products to encourage “good stewardship of land use,” Graumann said, related to “carbon monitoring forestry and agriculture.”
When Nuview was looking for someone to help the company raise awareness of the climate applications for its technology, Graumann contacted DiCaprio’s staff. DiCaprio “wanted to see how lidar can be used for for climate science and environmental purposes,” Graumann said. “We put all that together and it worked out really well.”