Umbra, a geospatial intelligence data provider, was granted a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite with 1,200 MHz of bandwidth. This bandwidth allocation will allow them to generate images with as low as 15-centimeter (6 inch) ground sampling distance (GSD). At this resolution, Umbra’s satellites will be able to detect items as small as a soda can from space.
Umbra is the first commercial satellite provider in U.S. history to receive a license enabling this level of capability from Space.
Umbra, which recently raised $32M, pushed their chips “all in” on capability and patented technology, which had never been attempted by a commercial firm or approved by a U.S. regulatory body.
“As an entrepreneur, you can take the risk and place a big bet by inventing new, previously unregulated technologies, or you can play it safe and pray no one else will. Umbra took the riskier path and hit the regulatory jackpot,” said, Gabe Dominocielo, Co-Founder and President of Umbra.
Umbra was granted a license from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2018. Recent developments will permit Umbra’s customers to access spaceborne imagery with 25 x 25-centimeter (10 inch) ground plane resolution. Even better resolution will be available to some customers. Umbra anticipates being the sole commercial provider of these high-resolution radar products in the United States and will be selling imagery commercially to customers based in the United States and to allies abroad.
Umbra’s SAR payload is a spaceborne measurement tool, which can generate imagery in any weather condition, see through clouds and in darkness. The phenomenology lends itself to many applications beyond just taking images. Umbra’s data will enable its network of analytics partners to make precise measurements to understand if there is oil running through a pipeline, if a vehicle is on or off, if there is power passing through a powerline and even detect human footsteps on grass – all from space, and without direct human involvement.
We have been working with regulators since day one. Umbra develops capabilities which are today’s state of the art and tomorrow’s art of the possible. Umbra’s commercial menu offers the U.S. Government the means to support a resilient space architecture.” Said Umbra’s Director of Payloads, Alex Potter.
In addition to Umbra’s patented antenna technology and industry-leading bandwidth, Umbra’s SAR satellites will be extremely efficient in the collection of data. “A single Umbra satellite will collect more high-resolution data on a per-unit basis, meaning Umbra can charge less and provide better value to our customers. The efforts of the Umbra team will expand the commercial audience for SAR as it starts to become more affordable and accessible. In the end, it all comes down to unit economics, and Umbra will have the best in the business,” said Joe Morrison, Umbra’s Head of Product.
Umbra is expanding its team of employees to more than 50 this year, and has new job openings in engineering, product, software, operations, and marketing in both Santa Barbara, CA as well as its new Austin, TX facility.