SAN FRANCISCO Nuview, a startup that intends to establish a constellation of light-sensing and range-finding (lidar) satellites, announced investments from US and European venture capital funds, as well as actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.

We see many opportunities in working with Mr. DiCaprio over the next few years to raise awareness both nationally and with groups such as the United Nations and the World Bank, said Clint Graumann, CEO and co-founder of Nuview Space news.

Orlando, Fla.-based Nuview has yet to reveal how much money it has raised to date. TechCrunch reported June 6 that the startup has raised $15 million to date, including $12 million in an ongoing Series A round.

Participants in the Series A round, led by MaC Venture Capital, include Broom Ventures, Cortado Ventures, Florida Funders, Industrious, Liquid2 and Veto Capital.

Since Nuview, founded in 2021, emerged from stealth mode in May, the company has disclosed a $2.75 million contract with National Security Innovation Capital, an organization founded in 2021 in the Defense Innovation Unit to support startups in early stage developing dual-use hardware. In addition, Nuview has $1.1 billion in early adoption deals that promise customers quick access to geospatial data collected by its planned constellation of 20 dishwasher-sized satellites, Graumann said.

Mister Spoc

Nuview plans to launch a Space Proof of Concept satellite called Mr. Spoc in just over two years. The satellite will provide the data to early adopters of Nuview.

After that, we will launch 20 commercial satellites, five at a time, Graumann said.

To date, lidar data has been collected from airborne platforms and government satellites such as NASA’s IceSat-2 launched in 2018. In recent years, a key sensor that Nuview plans to fly has been declassified.

When you combine that with some of our proprietary wide-area monitoring technologies, that gives us some unique capabilities, said Graumann.

Paul McManamon, Nuview’s chief science officer and former chief scientist for the Air Force Research Laboratories Sensors Directorate, has applied for or been granted more than two dozen patents, many related to optics and photonics. Jack Hild, former deputy director of origin operations at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, is a senior consultant at Nuview. Nuviews chief technology officer Patrick Baker has worked extensively with aircraft-based lidar.

We picked one of the toughest Earth observation challenges you can pick, but we hired the best people in the industry to do it, Graumann said.

Lidar’s Promise

After years of working with geospatial data providers and clients through TerraMetric, a consultancy also headed by Graumann, he co-founded Nuview to meet the widespread demand for lidar.

“No matter what type of dataset we were working with, whether it was optical, radar, thermal or hyperspectral, customers always mentioned lidar,” Graumann said. They said if we could get lidar data as a basis for what we’re building, everything would be better.

Lidar is popular for its accuracy.

Every collection with lidar is natively 3D, Graumann said. It allows us to see through a tree canopy to get a 3D rendering of what’s underneath. You can create surface models of the top of the canopy and terrain models of what’s below in one collection.

And Nuviews lidar will offer centimeter-level accuracy, Graumann said.

While lidar data is often collected from aircraft, Graumann noted “a pent-up demand for lidar data” from places that “defy a plane to fly over it.”

Leonardo Dicaprio

Earth observation data have important environmental applications.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation established a nonprofit in 1998 to support organizations that protect wildlife, preserve threatened ecosystems, and address climate change.

Nuview expects its data products to encourage “good land use management,” Graumann said, as it relates to “forestry and agriculture carbon monitoring.”

When Nuview was looking for someone to help the company raise awareness of climate applications for its technology, Graumann reached out to DiCaprio’s staff. DiCaprio “wanted to see how lidar could be used for climate science and environmental purposes,” Graumann said. “We put it all together and it worked really well.”

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