Array Labs, a YC alum with ambitions to map the world in 3D, has raised a $5M seed round to kickstart the development of its radar constellation.
The investment was led by Seraphim Space and Agya Ventures, with participation from Republic Capital, Liquid 2 Ventures, Rebel Fund, Y Combinator cofounder Trevor Blackwell, and Keyhole cofounder Brian McClendon.
Array Labs 101: The Sunnyvale, CA-based lean, mean team of two plans to build clusters of LEO radar satellites that fly in formation and image the same area at once to create 3D maps. Eventually, the team hopes to create a 3D digital twin of the entire globe.
“There’s a lot of satellite imagery of, you know, the tops of buildings and the tops of people’s heads,” Andrew Peterson, cofounder and CEO of Array Labs, told Payload. “But we don’t actually live in a flat 2D plane—we live in a three dimensional world.”
Right now, there are a few science missions collecting LiDAR data from space, including ICESat-2, which is mostly focused on monitoring Arctic ice, and GEDI, a sensor aboard the ISS creating 3D maps of the world’s forests. But this data is specifically targeted and fairly low-res. If a company is looking to purchase 3D data of a specific area, they’re going to have to get it closer to Earth.
“Today, there’s a technology called airborne LiDAR, where you fly over an area and you use a laser scanner to map everything in the vertical dimension and horizontal dimension,” Peterson said. “And that works really great, except it’s super expensive and really difficult to schedule and get a hold of. And so we’re delivering that sort of data for the first time from space.”
The Array Labs team has been busy with business development, completing the Seraphim Space Camp in fall 2021 and the YC accelerator earlier this year. Right now, they’re perfecting their initial designs for the constellation and beginning to build test satellites and ground-based hardware.
Who’s buying? The market for 3D imagery is wide, Peterson says. Array Labs has received over $100M in soft commitments from companies interested in buying this data once it exists. The data has particular value in real estate, autonomous vehicles, and emerging augmented reality applications. The startup has also seen interest coming from the energy, climate, and defense sectors.
What’s next? Right now, the team of two has its sights set on growth. Over the next 12 months, Array Labs plans to build a team of ~20 total engineers to plan out and build its initial constellation.
The team is hoping to demonstrate the technology within a year and a half, and is targeting deployment of an initial constellation in ~3 years.