Plans to provide satellite imagery and a “live and unfiltered” video of Earth in real-time are currently underway, according to startup company EarthNow LLC. With backers like Bill Gates, the Softbank Group, and Airbus – who will mass produce the satellites – the tech startup says their announcement represents a “dramatic leap forward” and goes beyond the scope of current satellite systems, which deliver photos and videos after the fact.
“With existing systems, users can see only what has happened in the past," said CEO Russell Hannigan in a statement. "With EarthNow’s constellation of satellites, you will see events unfold as they happen in real-time."
They’re calling it “real-time Earth observation services”, which sounds a whole lot like the premise of 1984. Using an upgraded version of a satellite platform originally developed for communications service OneWeb, EarthNow has plans to equip each satellite with cameras and an “unprecedented” amount of onboard processing power that investor Greg Wyler says will be the “world's first low-cost, high-performance satellites for mass production to bridge the digital divide.”
But Hannigan says it’s not the 21st-century version of voyeurism you might be imagining; the privately-owned global surveillance system will “help humanity understand and manage its impact on Earth.” The company packs its pitch by highlighting idyllic uses like the ability to "catch illegal fishing ships in the act" or to watch "hurricanes and typhoons as they evolve," all of which will eventually be accessible by using your phone or tablet. But wait, there’s more.
Initially, EarthNow says it plans to offer commercial video and “intelligent vision services” to government and enterprise customers. More than 100 satellites will be deployed by the end of the launch schedule – which the company isn’t disclosing at this time – making it possible to observe specific locations on Earth continuously and with a delay as short as one second.
If that isn’t enough, wait until you hear this. The “live Earth video” will employ machine intelligence; satellites working together with “terrestrial processing” will have the ability to interpret what they see.
EarthNow says the ultra-high definition resolution will not be capable of monitoring one person. They plan to work with governments and the public to meet privacy laws in jurisdictions where they operate, though how one might pinpoint a location for a space-bound company remains to be decided.
Really, the capability doesn’t seem that far off. Earlier this week, Earth-I released ultra-high-resolution images taken from space in the world’s first commercial satellite that provides full-color video of life on Earth.