Nano-satellite seeks up to €300m to build global IoT network

06 June 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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A Lithuanian company is aiming to raise up to €300 million to launch a global internet of things (IoT) network with 72 satellites.

The company, NanoAvionics, has already taken the first step by securing €10 million in finance from the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA) and private investors, that will cover the first three years.

“We are in discussion with a number of pilot customers,” CEO Vytenis Buzas told Capacity in an interview. “These will turn into our prime customers and we will launch on private funding from these customers. We have multiple entities that are interested.”

The move by NanoAvionics comes at a time of increased interest in small satellites, with a number of systems already in start-up operation and others being nursed into existence.

“Today it is very easy to launch a nanosatellite and operate it in orbit,” said Buzas.

NanoAvionics is working with “telecoms related customers”, he said in a wholesale project to develop business-to-business (B2B) applications, mainly for machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT. “We will help existing operators to launch their payloads” to expand coverage of existing terrestrially-based IoT services. “We are seeking B2B opportunities. We are a neutral supplier,” said Buzas.

NanoAvionics is working with a UK company, Lacuna Networks, to expand LoRA [long range] IoT networks into areas with limited ground infrastructure, he told Capacity. It is also working with a US company, Blink Astro, which is mainly focusing on agricultural data services.

The company uses technology based on the so-called “cubesat” standard, developed a decade ago at Stanford University in California. These satellites are built in 10 × 10 × 10cm cubes, though NanoAvionics has expanded the framework to be 30 cm long, though still 10 × 10cm wide. He calls this format a “bus”.

NanoAvionics plans to launch several by the end of 2020, using its recently acquired funding, but is putting together plans for its Global IoT (GIoT) network, which will require €200-€300 million, he said.

“Our long-term plans are for multiple customers, multiple payloads,” he added. Satellites would weigh 30kg and will orbit at 700-1,000km above the Earth’s surface.

“Our aim is to have 72 satellites for GIoT to serve the B2B market,” he said. The satellites will be connected by conventional telecoms satellites in geostationary orbit, he added.

“There will be constant connectivity. We are building a professional constellation, above oceans, deserts and other areas where no ground coverage is available. This is the next step for the nano-satellite market.”