ESA BIC Noordwijk alumnus and ESA spin-off SkyfloX announced the signing of a multi-million euro contract to do a big pilot project. This allows the company to make its first steps towards commercial deployment and to expand its services.

SkyfloX is mounting sensors on an airliner’s aircraft, so it can provide various earth observation and telecommunication services. This sensor, the size of a small suitcase, is helping getting data collected from the height of the ‘missing layer’ of earth observation.

Drones (<300m), ORCA (10 km), HAPS (20-50 km) and low-earth orbit satellites (>400km).

The system is called ‘ORCA’ (Optical and RF Constellations on Aircraft) and is patented by ESA and licensed to SkyfloX for development and commercialisation.

Key partners

The pilot is co-funded by ESA’s Business Applications Program, SkyfloX and its partners, the major airlines Transavia and Luxair, as well as strategic aerospace players such as Germany-based Safran Engineering Services and Kampf Telescope Optics, Luxembourg’s Euro-Composites and EmTroniX, and the Swedish Spacemetric.

Advantages

ORCA has several advantages to both airlines and business that are reliable on EO-data. “It complements existing satellite systems with affordable, high-quality Earth observation data, enabling services that were either inconceivable or too expensive with existing systems”, says Laurence Duquerroy, technical officer at ESA. As you can understand maintenance on a system on an airplane is a lot cheaper and more convenient than maintenance on a satellite.

ORCA installed on a commercial airplane


It’s something other businesses are already noticing. Our other ESA BIC Noordwijk alumnus Readar for instance already wrote (in Dutch) about why they choose to use imagery collected from planes.

For airlines SkyfloX also means an extra stream of revenue, and, lets be honest, as a way to do something back to the environment. Brit Haarmans, Innovation Lead at Transavia stated: “We consider this a revolutionary project, which will allow us to improve present-day earth observation. In this way, our flights can contribute to monitoring air quality, deforestation and pollution.” 

New services

With the pilot project, SkyfloX is now enabled to add new services. Think of services such as early forest fire detection, disaster relief, affordable infrastructure monitoring, resource management or detailed monitoring of the environment and the atmosphere.