Revolutionary High-Resolution Satellites Raise Privacy Concerns

Revolutionary High-Resolution Satellites Raise Privacy Concerns

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Startup company Albedo is setting out to collect and provide the highest resolution optical and thermal imagery from the sky. The images will have a resolution that has so far been achieved only by planes or drones –10 cm per pixel for optical imagery and 2 meters per pixel for thermal.

Cofounder and CEO at Albedo Topher Haddad explained: “…we’ll operate satellites that fly very low in what’s called Very Low Earth Orbit or VLEO…about twice as close to the Earth as normal LEO or Low Earth Orbit. And it’s a part of space that hasn’t been commercialized yet.” The company plans to launch the first and second 10 cm commercial satellite in 2025.

According to Cybernews, VLEO is a range of orbital altitudes of up to 400 km, most commonly 250-350 km, and Albedo will be the first company to commercialize this range, ultimately creating a new platform with big advantages for Earth observation.

Once the satellites are launched, Albedo plans to provide imagery-as-a-service for agriculture, insurance, energy, mapping, utilities, and defense.  The satellites are expected to cover the whole surface of the Earth (over both rural and metro areas), with the company foreseeing a constellation of 24 spacecraft revisiting the same point on Earth five times a day.

However, this widespread high-resolution satellite constellation is raising privacy concerns due to its high recognition capabilities – advocates fear this next-gen technology would be used to recognize people from space. As general counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jennifer Lynch told the New York Times: “This is a giant camera in the sky for any government to use at any time without our knowledge. We should definitely be worried.”

Nevertheless, Haddad responded to these claims by assuring that the technology won’t be able to identify people, adding they are “acutely aware of the privacy implications.”