GalaxEye, a tech start-up incubated at IIT-Madras, intends to launch 14 earth observation satellites to give an image of, say, an agricultural field. The first of these satellites, which will orbit the earth at an altitude of 500 km, is expected to go up in 2023.

Founded by five IIT-Madras students and alumni, GalaxEye has a couple of unique features.

First, unlike most other observation satellites that are equipped with either an optical camera or a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) camera, GalaxEye’s satellites will have both. An optical camera can capture features like colour, while an SAR can look through clouds and see in the night.

The start-up’s satellites employ a technology called ‘sensor fusion’ — combining two or more data sources in a way that generates a better understanding of the system — to enhance the image. For this, the founders have developed a new type of sensor, which they call ‘drishti’.

Second, GalaxEye will use ‘edge computing’ to process the information gathered by the sensors. Edge computing is an emerging field where the computing is done wherever the data is — as opposed to computing at a centralised server or a cloud. This means that images collected by the satellites are processed onboard and only the data relevant to the user — GalaxEye’s customer — is beamed down to the earth. This saves storage and bandwidth.

GalaxEye’s technicians will uplink instructions — algorithms — to the onboard computers, depending on the needs of the customer. For example, there could be one set of algorithms for processing data for an agricultural field and another for a construction site, says Suyash Singh, co-founder of GalaxEye.

In June, GalaxEye raised ‘pre-seed funding’ to help the company “perfect our sensors”. The start-up will go for another round of funding later, Singh said.

To launch the satellite, GalaxEye is in talks with another IIT-Madras start-up, Agnikul Cosmos, which is building rockets for satellite launch services. Incidentally, both Agnikul and GalaxEye are mentored by the entrepreneurs’ common teacher, Satya Chakravarthy, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, IIT-Madras.