Aiming to revolutionize Earth observation with Lidar-based mapping

Aiming to revolutionize Earth observation with Lidar-based mapping

Geospatial satellite startup NUVIEW on an ambitious mission

A new and ambitious startup called NUVIEW entered the geospatial satellite industry in May 2023, following a lengthy period in ‘stealth mode’. In this exclusive interview with GIM International, the company’s CEO and co-founder Clint Graumann discusses the firm’s aspirations. The startup is on a mission to revolutionize Earth observation by constructing the world’s first-ever commercial Lidar satellite constellation dedicated to annually mapping the entire land surface of the planet in 3D and developing intricate virtual replicas or ‘digital twins’. This ambitious endeavour signifies NUVIEW’s commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technology to provide comprehensive and high-resolution geospatial data that will empower multiple critical sectors – such as agriculture, urban planning and disaster mitigation – and drive impact and innovation across the globe.

How did NUVIEW come about, and what are the driving forces behind your groundbreaking plan?

We envision a future with an unparalleled wealth of precise, high-resolution data of the Earth’s surface. In a nutshell, I would say that we aim to revolutionize the market by executing our bold vision to create a network of cutting-edge satellites that will provide a continuously updated global 3D point cloud from space. Our company emerged from a deep understanding and recognition of the limitations of traditional Earth observation and mapping methods. Leveraging our extensive experience, we have assembled a team of exceptional professionals and are developing first-of-its-kind technology.

How many satellites will be necessary, what level of resolution are you aiming for, and what is the intended timeframe?

We aim to have 20 satellites in the NUVIEW constellation, and we are building our system with the target of achieving the US Geological Survey’s Topographic Data Quality Levels, beginning with QL2 and progressing over time. As things currently stand, the intention is to launch our satellites in four separate groups. Each group will comprise five satellites, and there will be an 18-month interval between the launch of each group. As a tentative timeline, we plan to launch the first satellites in 24-36 months’ time.

What has been the market reaction to NUVIEW?

Word spreads quickly within the geospatial/mapping community, and our groundbreaking technology created a buzz among people who have been waiting for these advancements. As news of our innovative technology circulated, we began receiving inquiries from numerous groups interested in working with us. These initial contacts paved the way for strong relationships, ultimately leading to letters of intent, early-adopter agreements and other contracts totalling US$1.2 billion from a wide range of commercial and public entities. And we’re strategically positioned to unveil more fundraising initiatives in the weeks to come.

Clint Graumann is actively engaged in the exploration of the latest advancements and innovations, as illustrated during his participation at GEOINT 2023, where he observed the industry's rapid integration of AI in the geospatial field. (Image courtesy: NUVIEW/Twitter)

According to your website, the data from your prestigious project is set to “elevate global capabilities and transform what is possible for mankind to know about the Earth”. How exactly?

I think it is safe to say that our transformative technology will successfully address current limitations on resolution, accuracy and the ability to penetrate through darkness or dense vegetation. With 20 satellites in orbit, equipped with our advanced Lidar technology, we will provide a continuously updated global 3D point cloud from space. This data will offer invaluable insights to address some of the most challenging scientific, environmental and commercial problems of our time. 

How does your company differ from the Earth Archive initiative – another project that aims to map the entire planet in 3D and create a digital twin of the Earth? 

While both NUVIEW and the Earth Archive initiative do indeed aim to map the entire planet in 3D, our transformative technology will address the previously mentioned limitations. Additionally, our constellation of Lidar satellites will provide an annually updated source of high-resolution and accurate data about the whole world rather than being an archive of baseline data.  

How is your journey progressing towards achieving your ambitious mission?

NUVIEW has already built a solid position in the market thanks to our impressive level of early-adopter agreements. But that’s not all – we have also raised US$15 million during our ongoing Series A round. This funding success can be attributed to the support of prominent investors who believe in our vision. Notable names like Leonardo DiCaprio, MaC Venture Capital, Broom Ventures, Cortado, Florida Funders, Industrious, Liquid2 and Veto Capital have all enthusiastically contributed to our growth. Furthermore, we have assembled an exceptional team of individuals who bring unparalleled expertise to Nuview, including Nicole Stott, a retired astronaut, who serves as our esteemed advisor; Dr Paul McManamon, a brilliant mind, leading the way as our chief science officer; Dr Jesse Eyer, a visionary in engineering, assuming the role of chief engineer & mission director; and last but not least, Jack Hild, an esteemed USGS senior advisor, who brings invaluable insights to our strategic decisions. With our strong financial backing, unwavering support from influential investors and partners, and this team of remarkable talent as an integral part of our journey, I firmly believe that our company is on the verge of reshaping the industry landscape and propelling it to new heights of success.

What will be the next steps towards realizing your goal? And what are the main challenges?

We’re planning to launch a ‘Space Proof of Concept’ satellite, called ‘Mr. Spoc’ for short, in a little more than two years. This will keep us on track towards launching our first set of satellites within the next 24-36 months, in line with our tentative timeline. In terms of challenges, many issues we face are shared across the tech and innovation communities. However, some challenges are unique to launching and maintaining Lidar-equipped satellites. The Lidar currently used for mapping the Earth is done with unscalable and expensive platforms like aircraft and drones. Therefore, our focus is on developing the most cost-effective, miniaturized Lidar systems to integrate into our satellites. We will also keep our satellites functioning for the long run through rigorous testing and maintenance. NUVIEW’s technology is significant in enabling the entire Earth to be mapped once a year. Additionally, ensuring the longevity of our shared space environment necessitates mindful operation and thoughtful design of satellite systems. This is a challenge that will only grow as the industry continues to expand its activities in space.

NUVIEW aims to establish the foremost commercial satellite constellation, dedicated to annually mapping the entire land surface of the planet, utilizing advanced Lidar technology. (Image courtesy: NUVIEW)

Which technological developments have helped to make your global Lidar system economically feasible?

The technological advancements in laser capabilities and satellite bus power generation have been key. But other major contributors have been the downward pressure on launch costs, the standardization of satellite buses, and cloud-based data processing. Most importantly, in my view, is that we have patent-pending technology around steering and data collection. That makes a huge difference in terms of scaling Lidar collection globally. 

In the longer term, how do you plan to collaborate with partners to expand the range of applications for your global Lidar mapping satellite constellation?

We are keen to support the innovation trend based on collaboration and accessibility with open-data policies for researchers, governments and private entities, while protecting against privacy concerns and potential misuse.

How do you envision the future benefits?

I believe that Lidar technology has immense potential to empower global climate initiatives and contribute to a sustainable future. Through our high-resolution and accurate data, NUVIEW can assist in projects spanning urban planning, land use management, environmental monitoring, disaster response and agriculture, all helping to solve some of Earth’s most pressing problems. Therefore, we aim to continue growing our technology and showcasing its impactful applications. Moreover, this community is filled with innovators driving positive change in our world. Hopefully, our breakthroughs will inspire young scientists and attract new talent to the geospatial industry.

Famous investor from Hollywood

A consortium of investors participating in the project includes a Hollywood star. “We are excited to share the news of our partnership with actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio as a new investor in NUVIEW. His investment is vital in helping us address global environmental challenges. With his support, we can work towards revolutionizing how we uncover new data and insights to enable more informed decision-making among climate scientists, policymakers and conservationists,” stated Clint Graumann.

“NUVIEW’s cutting-edge technology will set itself apart by generating high-resolution, 3D images of the Earth’s surface, aiming to improve our ability to monitor and protect the planet with much more accuracy,” commented DiCaprio in a statement, explaining his decision to invest in what he described as an “unprecedented dataset” for climate science.

About Clint Graumann

Clint Graumann is CEO and co-founder of NUVIEW. An accomplished serial entrepreneur and with a career spanning over 15 years in the Earth observation industry, he has held key executive positions in several renowned companies. This included playing a leading role at TerraMetric, an enterprise development agency specializing in aerospace technology and geospatial applications. Graumann is an alumnus of Oklahoma State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.

Clint Graumann, CEO and co-founder. (Image courtesy: NUVIEW)
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