Swarm raises $25 million for smallsat constellation

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WASHINGTON — Swarm Technologies, the startup that ran afoul of the FCC last year for its unauthorized launch, has raised $25 million to continue building and deploying a constellation of 150 very small satellites.

Palo Alto, California-based Swarm said Jan. 24 that it has raised more than $28 million in total since forming in 2017. The new Series A funds will go toward deploying the company’s full constellation over the next 18 months, as well as adding new hires and boosting technology development.

Craft Ventures, a SpaceX investor, and Sky Dayton, founder of the internet service providers EarthLink and Boingo, led Swarm’s Series A, with NJF Capital, Social Capital and 4DX Ventures participating.

Swarm recently hired Kalpak Gude, a veteran satellite regulatory affairs expert, shortly after the startup was fined $900,000 by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for launching four satellites on an Indian rocket last January without authorization. The company has since gone through the required regulatory processes for another three satellites, which launched in December aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, growing Swarm’s constellation to seven low-Earth-orbiting spacecraft.

Swarm’s satellites, each one-fourth the size of a single-unit cubesat, are designed to provide two-way communications for Internet-of-Things sensors and devices around the world.

“With 75 billion connected devices coming online around the world over the next six years, viable and affordable network access will be essential,” Sara Spangelo, Swarm co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “For this reason, our technology has caught the attention of dozens of companies — from early-stage startups to Fortune 100 enterprises — with whom we have completed successful pilot tests in agriculture, maritime, ground transportation, and text messaging services.”

Swarm joins a growing number of companies that are fielding small satellites for Internet-of-Things connectivity. Canadian startup Kepler Communications is deploying a constellation of 140 satellites, Australian startup Fleet is preparing a 100-satellite constellation, and French company Kineis is planning a system of 20 satellites. Additional competitors include Astrocast, Hiber and OQ Technologies.

In a statement, Swarm investor Dayton praised the company as being highly differentiated from other satellite systems.

“Swarm has developed something entirely new: a low-bandwidth, latency-tolerant network that is extremely inexpensive, low-power and very easy to integrate for things that need to be connected anywhere in the world — and Swarm is doing it in a tenth the time of a traditional satellite network build,” Dayton said.