NASA image of Earth from space

Bill Gates’ space surveillance plan is kind of scary but really cool

Contributed by
Apr 22, 2018, 9:23 PM EDT

Imagine a network of satellites that can zero in on any place on Earth and beam down live video a literal second later. This is not science fiction.

EarthNow is the new Bill Gates-backed startup that is basically going to be stalking everything and everyone, everywhere when it becomes airborne. The satellite imaging system of the not-so-distant future has just broken out of the Intellectual Ventures ISF Incubator (something of a chrysalis for businesses in development) and will now take flight as a full-on commercial venture also funded by Airbus, the SoftBank Group, and OneWeb founder and Executive Chairman Greg Wyler.

“EarthNow is ambitious and unprecedented, but our objective is simple; we want to connect you visually with Earth in real-time,” said EarthNow founder and CEO Russell Hannigan. “We believe the ability to see and understand the Earth live and unfiltered will help all of us better appreciate and ultimately care for our one and only home.”

Previously launched satellites now hovering over the planet are only able to provide footage from the past, but EarthNow will be able to stream events as they happen in real time. They really aren’t meant to publicly embarrass random people who drop shopping bags or trip over candy wrappers.

NASA image of hurricane from space

Imagine if we could catch a hurricane in real time and evacuate before it had a chance to do any major damage.

The real reason this company wants to release these extra eyes into space is to observe hurricanes and typhoons, catch forest fires, monitor crops, stop illegal fishing, watch conflict zones, and otherwise keep everyone aware of what is currently affecting our planet with on-demand data that can be accessed by smartphone.

Technology that makes it possible to transmit real-time information on how a massive storm is evolving has the potential to save thousands of lives.

Powered by an upgraded satellite platform developed by OneWeb, each EarthNow satellite has serious processing power that has never been seen in this type of spacecraft before, including an unprecedented amount of CPU cores—more than all the commercial satellites that exist.

“We created the world’s first low-cost, high-performance satellites for mass-production to bridge the digital divide," said Wyler. "These very same satellite features will enable EarthNow to help humanity understand and manage its impact on Earth.”

EarthNow will also bring some of the most stunning images of our planet directly to your screen. Hannigan believes that universal access to these views from space will make us all “virtual astronauts.”

The thought of an EarthNow satellite catching you meandering outside in your underwear shouldn’t be that scary. After all, there are people willing to do more absurd things on YouTube.

(via EarthNow)