Crop monitoring, monitoring the developments of all types of natural disasters (fires, tsunamis, floods, tornados…), construction monitoring and a host of other applications. All of this thanks to a small 60cm cube made a little over two years ago in the Boecillo Technology Park, which since then has taken more than 8,500 high resolution images and has orbited the earth a staggering 10,700 times. The Deimos-1 satellite is a small device made by the astronaut, Pedro Duque’s company, Deimos Imaging (a technology division of the Elecnor group), which after two years has started to be profitable for the company.
About thirty workers, most coming from the University of Valladolid (the workforce grows by about 15% each year) are responsible for managing, processing and evaluating the high resolution images taken by the satellite, in the management centre in the Boecillo Technology Park.
The company has just opened up market in the USA. It maintains commercial ties with different European countries as well as the EU, and now is looking to expand particularly to the Chinese and Russian markets, as well to South America. “It is easy for us to select the market because we have the whole world mapped out photographically by the Deimos-1 satellite”, jokes the 48 year old aeronautic engineer from Madrid, famous for his past with NASA. However, jokes aside, that is where they have their sights set.
Deimos Imaging turned over 5 million euros in the last year and expects to increase its business volume in order to obtain a profit from the initial investment of about 30 million euros that it made to put its first satellite into orbit on the 29th of July 2009 from the Baikonur launch site (in the Former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan).
The first steps have already been taken with the recent signing of a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that accounts for 20% of the company’s revenues. The Valladolid tagged satellite will provide this Organisation with images of its North American fields every 15 days in order to monitor crop cultivation. “This will provide cloud free images every two weeks which until now no other American satellite has been able to do because the two existing ones are old and have a much lower photographic resolution capacity”, stated Pedro Duque.
The head of the Deimos-1 satellite specified that their objective is to capture “high resolution images of up to 600 kilometres in width, which allow the user to see if crops are being irrigated sufficiently or not, what types of plants are sown or simply to see if the irrigation system is working in order to improve exploitation and knowledge of the season’s harvest.
This is perhaps the main source of revenue, that the satellite offers by taking photographs from the same location every time it orbits the earth. However, it is by no means the only one. “We also monitor the development and land coverage of areas affected by fires, as well as monitoring illegal construction, floods and natural disasters, such as the tsunami in Japan”, explained the astronaut before highlighting that Deimos Imaging was the first company to take images of the devastating effects of the tsunami that destroyed the Asian country so that the UN aid organisation could evaluate the damage.
The applications of the snapshots taken by satellite are infinite and they can be used even for defence purposes. “We can observe a larger area of ocean with a single glance than anyone else, which could be used to control fleets and pirate ships off the coast of Somalia”, he justified.
Therefore, the company plans to continue expanding to the international markets with a firm view already set on Deimos-2. “The first satellite is now at its peak, however, it has a lifespan of approximately five years, and this is a very competitive market”, Anticipated Duque. Then, he provided the examples of China and Brazil who have attempted to build up to three similar satellites but, which “did not work”. This is where his interest in opening these markets originates.