Smart Earth monitoring by commercial airline fleets

20/06/2019 301 views 2 likes
ESA / Applications / Telecommunications & Integrated Applications / Technology Transfer

Meet Dutch ESA BIC start-up SkyfloX at Paris Air Lab 21/6 and learn about their innovative solution to cost-effective monitoring of the Earth by sensors riding piggyback on commercial airlines.

SkyfloX has developed a system based on sensors mounted on airliner´s aircraft to provide a variety of Earth observations and telecommunication services.

Hosted at ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) Noordwijk SkyfloX gets access to test facilities, laboratories and support to develop their system of sensors mounted on airplanes for Earth observation as well as telecommunication services. Mounted on the belly of the aircraft the Earth observation sensors captures images of the ground underneath along the flight path. 

Airplanes over central Europe
Airplanes over central Europe

With over 10millions flights a year over Europe it allows for multiple daily revisits over most of Europe, with even the fleet of a single airline company providing a significant coverage potential.

These sensors can be used for early detection of forest fires break out, rapid assessment of calamity impact zones to aid disaster response units, detection of oil spills, monitoring of forest yield and growth, and much more.

The SkyfloX product concept
The SkyfloX product concept

Based on ESA space patent 
The technology concept ORCA patented by ESA has been licensed to SkyfloX. ORCA stands for ”Optical and RF Constellation on Aircraft”. It proposes to use commercial aircraft as a ‘platform’ to carry small satellite equipment (<20Kg) on the aircraft, with several equipped forming a ‘constellation’ for Earth observation and telecommunication services.


The equipment will be fully EASA certified, will not interfere with regular aircraft operations, and will be operated by the ORCA operator, thus it will operate without interventions required by the pilot or aviation operator.

ORCA complements existing space-based Earth observation solutions, by realising a sub-orbital constellation capable of supplying wide coverage earth observation data with high spatial and temporal resolution, in a sustainable and affordable manner.

A steady stream of ancillary revenues for the airlines

SkyfloX and partners pay for the equipment, the mounting on the aircraft and the airline companies to carry the equipment.

The equipment below the aircraft to monitor the Earth is very small, weighing less than a small suitcase, and will therefore have negligent impact on the aircraft aerodynamics. Basically, Skyflox is a 'free' increase in cash for the airline companies.

ESA BIC Noordwijk boosts the spin-off

SkyfloX is hosted at ESA Business Incubation Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, where the team is supported to spin-off the ESA ORCA patent.

The technical feasibility of the SkyfloX system was confirmed by ESA funded studies and several major airline companies have confirmed there business interest in the system.

Ongoing activities comprise certification, followed by tests on commercial airliners to take place in the upcoming pilot expected to be in 2020. 

Hear SkyfloX pitching at the INNOVATION STAGE 21 June 16:00-16:30

Meet the SkyfloX entrepreneurs at the PARIS AIR LAB at Paris Air Show 21 June at their stand PROTECT S4.  

PARIS AIR LAB -  Paris Air Show

After the success of its first edition 2 years ago, Paris Air Lab returns at the heart of the Paris Air Show, in the Concorde hall, with 3,000 m² dedicated to innovation and prospective in the aerospace, an industry decisively open to the future. Mobilities of tomorrow, AI, exploration and environment; Paris Air Lab will focus on major topics in the field.

Spotlight on industrial innovations and startups
Twelve booths are dedicated to 80 new comers: startups from more than 20 countries around the world display their projects and present their work. Discover important innovation programs through 12 collaborative booths around 4 key areas:

- ENABLE, focusing on innovative technologies in the industry
- PROTECT, dedicated to the sustainable aerospace industry
- TRAVEL, focused on the future of aeronautics mobility
- EXPLORE, featuring iconic space missions.

In the heart of Paris Air Lab, the booth «Understanding climate change» shows how planes and satellites contribute to the monitoring of climate change through embedded devices.

ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions

ESA’s Business Applications and Space Solutions programme has a network of 20 ESA Business Incubation Centres, 15 ESA Innovation Partners and 14 ESA Ambassadors throughout Europe. It co-funds projects and start-ups, while also offering technical and business support to companies that seek to deliver rapid innovation and to raise private investment.

Overall ESA spends €400 million a year on strengthening the competitiveness of European and Canadian companies in the global markets for both satellite communications andr downstream applications.

ESA BICs - World's largest ecosystem for space-related entrepreneurship
The ESA Business Incubation Centre Noordwijk was founded in 2004 and is part of the wider network of 20 ESA BICs throughput Europe.

The 20 ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs) form the largest ecosystem in the world for space-related entrepreneurship and have fostered over 700 start-ups throughout Europe. Spread across some 60 cities in 17 countries, more than 300 start-ups are currently under the two-year business incubation development booster programme.

The centres offer complete access to all aspects of space-related innovation, technology and intellectual properties and is a gateway to ESA and European space research and developments. Located in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and UK, with more to open, over 700 start-ups have been fostered and another 180 new start-ups are taken in yearly to be supported under the two-years business development booster programme.