Jon Powers, vice president of sales at Planet Federal, spoke with trajectory about the company’s role in GEOINT and what makes them unique.
Trajectory: What is Planet’s role in the advancement of geospatial intelligence?
Powers: Planet’s Earth observation (EO) data, products, and services can serve as a powerful tool for increasing peace and security because of the enhanced situational awareness they provide. U.S. Federal Civilian Agencies, the Department of Defense, and the Intelligence Community use our high-cadence, high-resolution satellite imagery to better monitor and respond to global events—from climate disasters to deforestation to food production to missile tests.
What solutions and services does Planet provide?
Planet provides a unique dataset from a fleet of 200 satellites—the largest fleet of Earth imaging satellites. We operate two main constellations today. Our PlanetScope constellation consists of nearly 200 satellites—we call these Doves—capturing 3.7-meter resolution imagery. These satellites act as a line scanner and image the entire Earth’s landmass on a daily basis as the Earth rotates under them. Our second constellation is called SkySat. We operate 21 high-resolution, high-revisit SkySats today, which work on a traditional tasking model and are capable of capturing 50cm imagery of a specific location on Earth 5-7 times per day. All of this data is harmonized and ML-ready to process in order to help our customers extract the information they need from the data.
Who are your main customers?
Today we have over 800 customers across a range of industries including, government, agriculture, forestry, energy, and finance. Our data is used by NASA, NRO, NGA, NOAA, Bayer, Accenture, and hundreds of others.
What distinguishes Planet in the geospatial industry? What makes your company unique?
We pioneered agile aerospace, which means we use a software-like, iterative approach to build highly capable spacecraft. We do this in a scalable, cost-efficient manner that relies on modern software technology and widespread automation. Using this approach, we’ve built an unmatched fleet of satellites. Our constellation enables us to generate a proprietary, vast dataset that offers historical context across the globe, as well as deep imagery stacks for application development and machine learning-based analytics. While we offer similar services to a typical high-resolution EO provider, what makes us unique is our ability to see today what you didn’t know you would need until tomorrow. With our PlanetScope constellation and its daily revisit capabilities, we can look around the corner and identify areas or patterns that may not have been previously identified.
What excites you most about the future of GEOINT?
In many ways GEOINT is still a relatively new market, so the possibilities—even in just the next two to three years—are very exciting. Today, we’re seeing significant advancements in AI and computer vision that are driving ease of consumption and usability of geospatial data. Providing a platform for that innovation is something we are excited to be leading at Planet. We are extremely proud to be able to meet and serve diverse market segments—everything from sustainability operations and disaster relief and recovery to helping preserve peace and security.
What is your involvement with USGIF? How have you leveraged USGIF membership to contribute to the geospatial community or advance the tradecraft?
As a Strategic Partner, we truly value our partnership and seek to get involved in every way we can. The organization does a tremendous job of bringing the geospatial intelligence community together in a collaborative way throughout the year, whether it’s regular working groups or larger conferences like the GEOINT Symposium. When you consider the vast number of use cases the community serves, USGIF has been able to harness and provide clear communication lanes to drive innovation. Their work has been incredibly valuable to Planet for the opportunities it provides our organization to hear from government leaders, cultivate existing relationships, and form new ones.
What’s next for Planet?
We’re really excited about our plans to launch a new, very high-resolution taskable constellation called Pelican. When operational, we expect these satellites will capture 30cm data. We also have plans to launch a hyperspectral constellation called Tanager, which we expect to have a resolution of 30 meters with over 400 spectral bands capable of pinpointing, quantifying, and tracking point-source methane and CO2 emissions. Lastly, we are continually refining our information products that quantify what’s happening on Earth. We call these Planetary Variables. These information feeds can measure biomass, land surface temperature, soil water content, and automated change detection for roads, buildings, vessels, and aircraft. We’re committed to democratizing access to geospatial data and making this data applicable to an increasing number of customers. These tools will help us get there.
Featured image: Photo of satellite image of the ice melt in Greenland provided by Janes Federal