SAN FRANCISCO – Spire Global plans to nearly double its satellite constellation and offer customers AirSafe API, a global aircraft tracking product that combines data from sensors in space and on the ground.

“The aviation industry has a big need to be able to track all the world’s aircraft including in the areas with the largest economic growth: Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, where the infrastructure is very limited,” Spire CEO Peter Platzer told SpaceNews. “They need to track aircraft not just from an operational efficiency perspective but also from a safety perspective and from a regulatory perspective.”

On Oct. 16, Spire rolled out the first of stages of AirSafe, the first Spire Aviation product. Spire already obtains more than 70 million daily aircraft position reports. To offer global aircraft tracking as well as rapid reporting, Spire will need to add another 70 or 80 satellites to its current fleet of 84 satellites, Platzer said.

“This is the first step in a very clearly defined and well-funded rollout of Spire’s plan to provide to the aviation industry a cost-effective and innovative product for tracking” an aircraft’s latitude, longitude, altitude and time every 15 minutes, Platzer said. “The API we released is the first step to providing global satellite-based and terrestrial coverage.”

In six to seven months, Spire plans to expand its constellation to track aircraft operating near the equator, “a region which is traditionally underserved both in the maritime world and the aviation world,” Platzer said.

Once Spire has full coverage of the equatorial region, the company will “have an opportunity to deliver a product to customers who typically don’t have access to the information because of its cost,” said John Lusk, general manager for Spire’s commercial business units. “We can deliver a highly capable product at a reasonable price point.”

Later in 2020, Spire plans to launch still more satellites and complete its AirSafe rollout. By 2021, Spire’s constellation will be large enough to observe any aircraft’s latitude, longitude, altitude and time and provide reports within 15 minutes, Platzer said.

Spire’s expanded global constellation also will provide a wealth of data for customers of Spire’s maritime and weather products, Lusk said.

Through AirSafe, Spire plans to offer weather forecasting products. Customers will benefit, for example, from the fusion of aircraft location data with information on global winds aloft and clear air turbulence, Spire said in an Oct. 16 news release.

“There are numerous technology innovations Spire is building into its AirSafe product, including inter-satellite links,” Platzer said.

With inter-satellite links, Spire will be able to transmit data within minutes “if not seconds, which will give Spire a huge competitive advantage,” Lusk said.

Spire’s recent investment round is making the fleet expansion and technological innovation possible, Platzer said.

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...