India launches 12 more satellites for Swarm’s IoT in space

India launches 12 more satellites for Swarm’s IoT in space

02 March 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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An Indian rocket has successfully launched 12 satellites for Swarm, a Californian company that is planning to build a space-based internet of things (IoT).

The latest 12 were aboard a rocket launched from India’s Satish Dhawan space centre, alongside a Brazilian satellite, Amazonia 1.

“We plan 150 satellites in all,” Swarm’s CEO, Sara Spangelo (pictured), told Capacity. “We already have 250 customers signed up.”

The target of 150 satellites is for the end of 2021, said Spangelo, and the company is using a variety of launch services to get them all into orbit, as well as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which launched the latest batch.

By the end of the year everywhere on Earth “will have three satellites overhead at all times”, added Spangelo, an aerospace engineer who previously worked at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory alongside the team that developed the Perseverance rover that is now on Mars.

Swarm announced in February that it has already started commercial service, ahead of the full fleet being in service, with prices starting at US$5 a month for IoT services.

Customers need to fit a small two-way modem — called a Swarm Tile — into their devices to connect them to the IoT. Typical applications include vehicle tracking, logistics, water and resource monitoring, plus emergency response services, said Spangelo in the interview.

Less typical applications that Swarm is investigating include tracking whales.

“People want to put our devices on the side of whales, for when they surface for a few seconds. We need to figure our how to get the tile on to the side of a whale.” But Swarm is also looking at tracking of rhinoceroses, giraffes and other endangered species.

Capacity will publish the full interview with Spangelo shortly