Since the space race and the Moon landing, launching things into orbit has predominantly been the purview of the federal government, and a number of deep-pocketed commercial satellite communications providers. However, the evolution of commercial spaceflight has created a democratization in space, and kicked open the doors for smaller, innovative, emerging technology companies to literally and figurately take off.
This is especially true in the commercial satellite imagery marketplace, which has long been limited to intelligence, defense, and government agencies responsible for weather-forecasting and environmental monitoring. One of the companies that has been leading the meteoric ascent into this nascent and exciting marketplace has been the local firm, HawkEye 360, which has been rapidly building a fleet of satellites capable of geolocating Radio Frequency (RF) data.
The company’s incredible growth and penchant for fundraising secured it an ACG Corporate Growth Award for Deal of the Year in 2020 for its Series B round of funding. And the company was once again nominated in 2021 as the Emerging Growth Company of the Year.
While they didn’t takeaway any hardware in 2021, they remain one of the region’s most exciting companies to watch in the space industry – and one that’s poised to revolutionize how satellite imagery is generated and used across both the public and private sectors.
To learn more about what lies ahead for HawkEye 360, we recently sat down with Adam Bennett, the Senior Director of Product Marketing at HawkEye 360. Here is what he told us:
Corporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS): Can you tell our readers a bit about HawkEye 360 and the satellite network that it operates? What does the company’s satellite constellation do, and what organizations and marketplaces does the company service?
Adam Bennett: Today, many electronic systems across sea, air, and land generate radio frequency (RF) signals. HawkEye 360 operates the first-of-its-kind commercial satellite constellation that detects, characterizes and geolocates these RF signals from a broad range of emitters, including VHF marine radios, UHF push-to-talk radios, maritime and land-based radar systems, L-band satellite devices and emergency beacons.
By processing and analyzing this RF data, the company delivers actionable insights and a unique knowledge for national, tactical and homeland security operations, maritime domain awareness, environmental protection and a growing number of new applications, especially in the commercial sector.
Insights from HawkEye 360 have been used to discover and monitor illegal Chinese fishing activity, detect poaching and identify offshore crude oil smuggling operations.
CGCS: HawkEye 360 has been named a finalist for the 2021 Corporate Growth Awards after taking home an award in 2020. To what do you attribute the company’s continued and sustained growth and success?
Adam Bennett: Several strengths set HawkEye 360 apart and have contributed greatly to the company’s growth to date. The first is that our RF monitoring capabilities are revolutionary and unparalleled in the commercial field. Previously, these types of capabilities had only been available to governments.
Second, our team has done an excellent job developing capabilities that facilitate analysis of the RF signal data we collect. We harness AI and machine learning together with other layers of geospatial and terrestrial data to quickly and automatically extract meaningful, actionable insights tailored to our partners’ needs. We also integrate our products and services seamlessly into existing client workflows, further saving valuable analyst time.
Lastly, we have built and continue to develop a passionate, highly skilled team on which everyone is driven to make a positive difference.
CGCS: Since we last spoke, the company has accomplished some incredible things, including Series C funding and the launch of new satellites. Can you tell our readers about this latest funding round? Where did the latest funding come from, and how will the company leverage it into the future?
Adam Bennett: HawkEye 360’s Series C round secured $55 million in new funding, bringing our total raised to date to more than $155 million. The round was led by NightDragon and included further investment from existing investors Advance, Razor’s Edge Ventures, Shield Capital, Dorilton Ventures, Adage Capital and Esri International.
The funding is supporting an expansion of the scope of HawkEye 360’s planned constellation by three satellite clusters, as well as the development of complementary ground infrastructure, communications, and software to enable high-speed data processing and delivery for time-critical applications.
These improvements will help us reach our goals of rapid revisit rates and low-latency data and data analytics, to better meet growing demand across the globe.
CGCS: HawkEye 360 also recently launched more new satellites. What makes these new satellites innovative or unique? What new capabilities will they deliver to HawkEye customers?
Adam Bennett: HawkEye 360 launched two new clusters this year: Cluster 2 in January and Cluster 3 in June. These satellite clusters are each significantly more powerful than our exploratory first cluster, the Pathfinder Cluster.
Our new generation of satellites process data at a faster rate and are equipped with improved software-defined radios (SDR) that can simultaneously collect a wide range of frequencies. The overall system is designed to produce faster, more accurate geolocations. Cluster 3 also includes capabilities to perform on-orbit investigations which will help shape a roadmap for future feature additions.
For customers, these clusters boost the quantity, quality and timeliness of RF intelligence that HawkEye 360 can deliver. These improvements will also help the company identify new RF intelligence applications to further expand its products and services.
CGCS: The company has touted that each new satellite cluster launched offers “new innovations to address a rapidly growing set of requirements needed by our defense, security and commerce clients.” What are these requirements?
Adam Bennett: HawkEye 360 clients have an ever-growing demand for a wide array of timely, accurate RF data and analytics. Timely, frequently refreshed data allow them to operate in difficult, rapidly-evolving environments and to respond to rapidly unfolding situations.
The data must also be accurate and reliable to be used to support high-impact decisions. The diversity of situations our clients face also necessitates that our collection and analytics capabilities cover a wide range of emitter types.
CGCS: What does HawkEye 360 have in store for the rest of 2021 and 2022? Are there any exciting new announcements regarding satellite launches or new customers that you can share with our readers?
Adam Bennett: After Cluster 3, seven additional clusters are fully funded and scheduled for launch in 2021 and 2022. This baseline constellation of ten clusters, or 30 total satellites, will achieve collection revisits as frequent as every 20 minutes.
Each new cluster will also offer innovations to address the unique and evolving challenges facing our clients. We ultimately plan to expand beyond ten clusters to achieve near-persistent monitoring of global RF activity.
The company continues to accrue interest from financial backers and explore partnerships with outstanding partners across the government various commercial sectors.
For a full list of this year’s winners, click HERE. For a list of this year’s finalists click HERE.