Tuesday, 11 April 2017 23:46

Aussie space start-up Fleet gets $5m boost for nanosatellite network Featured

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Flavia Tata Nardini, Fleet Space Technologies Flavia Tata Nardini, Fleet Space Technologies

Australian space start-up Fleet has raised $5 million in a Series funding round as it prepares to build and launch a constellation of nanosatellites which it says will ultimately connect the world’s 75 billion devices by 2025 for free.

Developed in partnership with leading aerospace engineers, the Adelaide-founded company will launch the first of more than 100 planned satellites next year to create a global network that will be free to use by sensors and devices worldwide.

The funding — to be used to help build the business’ first nanosatellites and continue global expansion — was led by venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures, with co-investment from Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes, Earth Space Robotics, and Horizon Partners in Silicon Valley.

Founded in 2015 Fleet was initially backed by matched seed funding from the South Australian Government and company chief executive and co-founder, Flavia Tata Nardini — a space engineer who worked with the European Space Agency and Dutch research institute TNO — says the size of Fleet’s nanosatellites means they can be produced at a fraction of the cost of traditional satellites.

"There is so much talk globally about the potential of connected devices, but little action being taken to make this chatter a reality,” Nardini says.

“We’re designing a technology infrastructure that will underpin the new industrial revolution. It will connect all corners of the globe to create a digital nervous system of devices.

“We chose to launch in Australia as our nation is home to many of the industries that need this type of technology the most. Farmers, environmentalists, mining and oil engineers, and logistics professionals will all greatly benefit from the data and opportunities a switched-on planet produces.

“Our goal is for industries to use this technology to make real, tangible efficiency improvements to the ways they operate and address issues; be it measuring the effect of climate change on outer corners the great barrier reef, or tracking important cargo like aid as it journeys across the Indian Ocean. This investment brings a global network of connectivity one step closer to reality.”

Investor Mike Cannon-Brookes, founder of Grok Ventures and co-founder of Atlassian, said, “They’re rare (nanosatellites), but every so often an idea cross your path that really gets the adrenaline pumping. Fleet answers one of modern society’s most difficult but important questions: how do we bring all the devices and technology we’ve created together to work as one?

“Once live, Fleet will solve an innumerable amount of the world’s problems as it enables the potential of technology to be turned on. Fleet is a prime example of Australian-led innovation at its best, and I can’t wait to help it influence the global economy for the better.”

According to Nardini, the fact that Australia is considered the 19th most innovative nation in the world isn’t good enough.

“The Australian Government has set out policies to foster innovation, but space isn’t part of that conversation — Australia is one of the largest economies in the world to not have its own space agency. Projects like this are crucial to our future as they test our creativity and ability to think big. If we’re not always asking what’s next, we’ll never really have a place in the innovation game,” she said.

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