6 mins read 26 Jan 2022

ARLULA Partners with LatConnect 60 to improve Earth Observation

Sydney-based satellite imagery distributor Arlula has joined forces with Western Australian smart satellite imaging company LatConnect 60 to improve the accessibility of Earth Observation data. 

LatConnect 60 are planning to launch their own Earth Observation satellite network in 2022. Credit: LatConnect 60.

Sydney based Arlula are looking to improve access to Earth Observation (EO) data through their single point of access software, reducing the impacts of supply, accessibility, cost and storage of EO images and data. This partnership with LatConnect 60 (LC60) is another step towards that goal. 

Arlula will provide industry-first data storage and distributed cloud infrastructure for LC60 that will enable users to affordably access high-resolution data in near real-time and support LC60’s growing EO fleet.     

“We are incredibly excited to partner with LC60 to evolve the standard for processing and provisioning of satellite imagery. This partnership acts as a catalyst for change in the earth observation industry,” said Arlula CTO Scott Owens.

With the majority of EO imagery managed through large government and defence contracts, it can be difficult for the commercial industry to gain access to the images it requires. 

Arlula, founded in 2017, was designed to reduce the cost of access to space technology and create markets that allowed more consumers to access the kinds of technologies that are being sent into space, according to Co-Founder and CEO Sebastian Chaoui.

When the team at Arlula realised how difficult, labour intensive and therefore costly it can be to access EO imagery they decided that there must be a way to automate it which would improve access and reduce costs. 

“Why wasn't there an easier way to access this kind of data, [because] it's critical, it's critical to decision making. It's critical to understanding our planet and our environment as well, and we're really only just starting to understand how this could impact how we all live,” said Chaoui. 

What Arlula have created is a marketplace for satellite imagery, after talking to space organisations around the world and setting up commercial agreements with a number of space agencies and satellite imaging operators such as MAXAR. 

“What we do is we allow anyone [to] create a free account and start searching all of our satellite image archives from all of these different vendors and suppliers around the world and then order data, order satellite images. It could be the latest satellite image over any location on the planet really, and that satellite image could have been taken yesterday and it could be in someone's archive ready for you to access and utilise,” added Chaoui.


The LatConnect 60 satellite is planned for its first launch later this year. Credit: LatConnect 60.

LC60 was founded in Perth, Western Australia, and is Australia’s first smart satellite imaging company and have cemented themselves as market leaders, with over a million square kilometres of sub 1.0m resolution satellite imagery already captured over the Earth.  

LC60 last year announced a partnership with Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) as part of the UK-Australia ‘Space Bridge’ to provide high-resolution optical data from the SSTL S1-4 Earth observation satellite. The satellite provides high resolution panchromatic and multispectral optical data and was the first operational asset for the organisation. LC60 has plans to launch its own smart satellite constellation above Australian skies later this year.

In order to efficiently provide this product to customers at scale, LC60 have partnered with Arlula to leverage their industry-leading automation technology. They have differentiated themselves from their competitors by providing high-resolution imagery with a unique pay as you go business model. They have also made great efforts to reduce the complexity of their user licensing and are providing best in class terms for their customers. 

“LatConnect 60 is excited to be partnering with Arlula to deliver cutting edge Earth Observation products that will change the way data is accessed, consumed and analysed for real-time insights. As a team, we intend to unlock greater monetisation of EO products across existing and new markets,” said LC60 CEO, Venkat Pillay.

Earth Observation Data Access

These high resolution images are available through Arlula’s image selection platform. Credit: SI Imaging.

According to Chaoui, it has been difficult for smaller companies and data scientists to access the data they require, due to a fragmented and labour intensive process. With so many EO satellites and imaging companies, it can be difficult and expensive to navigate. 

“Before this, this kind of service, this kind of product never really existed before, which meant that you had to sort of call up a major supplier,” said Chaoui of the process.   

“You have to say, well, hey I'm interested in this really high-resolution image product you have. How much does it cost? I want an image over this location and then [they] get back to you a couple of days later. Then you do the invoice. Eventually a couple of weeks from then you'd have your image, and you'd have to download it from an FTP service, and it was all just a really clunky experience,” added Chaoui. 

There are also challenges with getting the location and frequency of images that someone might need, with minimum order quantities, usually around 25 square kilometres making the process very expensive if you need a number of areas at regular intervals. With an automated process, a reduction in order quantity down to 1 square kilometre and access to resolutions down to 50 centimetres, it is easy to see the appeal. 

With access currently to 18 satellites, Arlula is looking to continue to grow its network. With their automated API, it is possible to reduce wait times from 2 weeks to less than an hour. The simplification of the process has also removed much of the labour required, increasing marketability for imaging providers as well as reducing the cost for end-users. 

“There's so many more players from governments and startups and even corporates you know are launching their own Earth-imaging or remote sensing satellites and they're producing vast quantities of data. But then how do you make it available? That's a big data problem, but no one is really solving it, so this where we found this opportunity,” added Chaoui.

Arlula’s target audience are data scientists and those looking to use imaging to see changes weekly, daily or even hourly, using the automated scripts they provide. It is hoped that access to these images will support improvements in environmental sustainability, construction, agriculture and mining, industries that traditionally have not had access to these kinds of images on a consistent basis. 

“[We are] like a virtual constellation of satellites, and so we're using smart software to link them all up, get all their all their data they're collecting, make it available and make it easy to access,” concluded Chauoi.