Wyvern raises $7 million for hyperspectral imaging constellation

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TAMPA, Fla. — Hyperspectral imaging startup Wyvern said Nov. 1 it secured $7 million in additional seed funds ahead of deploying its first satellites early next year.

Venture capital firm Uncork Capital led the funding round with participation from earlier investors MaC Venture Capital and Y Combinator.

Wyvern has now raised about $15 million toward plans to ultimately develop a foldable telescope, which the Canadian startup says would let it pack more performance into smaller, cheaper-to-launch hyperspectral imaging satellites.

According to Wyvern, this telescope would enable commercial customers to access the kind of hyperspectral imaging services traditionally sold to the defense market from larger, more expensive satellites.

Hyperspectral sensors provide data across a multitude of spectral bands to enable analysts to detect phenomena in colors that typically can’t be seen by the human eye. Commercial applications for improving these sensors include helping farms save costs and improve operational efficiencies by reducing the amount of fertilizer, pesticide, and water used.

Wyvern’s initial satellites will not be equipped with deployable optics and will be limited to providing imagery at a 5-meter resolution.

Instead, these satellites are designed to give Wyvern a foothold in a commercial marketplace that is also being targeted by other imaging startups, including Virginia-based HySpeqIQ and Indian venture Pixxel.

Earth observation constellation operator Planet said Sept. 21 it also plans to add hyperspectral imagery satellites to its fleet starting next year.

AAC Clyde Space is building Wyvern’s first three satellites, each the size of six cubesats, for a launch early next year on an undisclosed rocket.

“This funding provided the certainty that our first constellation will make it to space,” Wyvern co-founder and chief operating officer Callie Lissinna said via email.

“Beyond mitigating any barriers to reaching space for the first time, this funding is also accelerating our development timeline.”

Wyvern expects to launch a constellation of 36 satellites in the coming years with its deployable optics technology — some bigger and others smaller than its initial 6U satellites.

Lissinna declined to say when it could deploy the first satellite with its foldable telescope, or what company would build this constellation.

“We have been hitting key milestones around the development of our first demonstration satellite for this deployable optics technology, and are well on-track to deliver global-scale coverage with our proprietary technology in the coming years,” Lissinna said.

She said Wyvern “flew extensive aerial surveys” with a hyperspectral drone this summer to gather data for solutions it is developing for the agriculture market. 

“This data is creating the foundation to a customer ‘Sandbox’, a platform we’re still developing, that will help customers in all industries play with hyperspectral data,” she added.

Some of these companies have already signed up as customers, according to Lissinna.