Airtree leads $12m Series A for space imagery enabler HEO Robotics

Airtree leads $12m Series A for space imagery enabler HEO Robotics

HEO Robotics CEO William Crowe, who co-founded the company in 2016 with Hiranya Jayakody (pictured below).

HEO Robotics, a Sydney-based startup with software so mathematically precise it can take photos of satellites whipping around space at extreme speed, has been able to capture $12 million in the somewhat slower moving venture capital market.

The Series A round was led by Airtree Ventures, with additional and returning investors including Salus VC, Y Combinator, In-Q-Tel, David Harding and Steve Baxter.

Founded in 2016 by William Crowe and Hiranya Jayakody - specialists in astrodynamics and robotics respectively - while they were working on PhDs at the University of Sydney, HEO Robotics' original mission was to track asteroids.

But the scientists soon realised there were far greater opportunities in what the niche space known as satellite-to-satellite imagery.

"Over the ocean, over clouds and over the night-time on Earth, satellites actually don’t do anything, so we use them during those times by turning them around and looking at other things that are whizzing past," Crowe told Business News Australia earlier this year.

"That’s all done via software and that means the owners of those cameras can get a lot more revenue from their assets."

The company's HEO Inspect software platform has been in constant refinement as part of the founders' goal to 'revolutionise' the way we perceive and interact with space objects, giving customers 'unparalleled capabilities' such as higher resolution imaging of space objects, faster data acquisition and an extended coverage of spacecraft.

HEO Inspect also includes enhanced features like attitude estimation (a term to describe where an object is pointing) and pattern of life analysis to better monitor spacecraft orbiting our planet.

HEO Robotics co-founder and CTO Hiranya Jayakody.
HEO Robotics co-founder and CTO Hiranya Jayakody.

 

Funding will go towards further advancing the development of HEO Inspect and accelerating the company's path to and pattern of life analysis to better monitor spacecraft orbiting our planet, solidifying the startup's position as a trailblazer in the field of non-Earth imaging.

"Today marks a significant milestone for HEO. Our mission has always been to make space activities easier for our customers by leveraging technology, and with the support of Airtree Ventures, we are well-equipped to push the boundaries of what's possible in non-Earth imaging and space utilisation," says HEO Robotics CEO and co-founder Dr Will Crowe.


Related story: Sydney’s HEO Robotics putting eyes on satellites to make space safer


Australian Space Agency head Enrico Palermo says the agency is proud to be collaborating with HEO.

"Their revolutionary satellite inspection technology is enhancing our understanding of space debris, satellite movements, and potential threats," Palermo says.

"Harnessing this sovereign capability bolsters our strategic stance on the global stage and empowers Australia to make smarter choices for the management of space activities, contributing to a safer and more sustainable future for both space operations and life on Earth."

Airtree Ventures partner James Cameron describes HEO Robotics as a 'bit of a rarity' in the space sector in Australia.

"Not only are they the first company globally to have built these space-imagery capabilities, they've also quickly unlocked material revenue streams and grown in a capital-efficient way that many other space technology businesses cannot," says Cameron.

"It's early days for Will, Hiranya and the HEO team, but they've got the right mix of deep technical expertise, ambition and adaptability to pioneer non-Earth imaging that will unlock our understanding of objects in the space environment."

An example of HEO Robotics non-Earth imagery.
An example of HEO Robotics non-Earth imagery.

 

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