Austria-based Blackshark.ai, a company that provides planetary insights by automatically extracting information from satellite imagery, has raised $20M (approx €17.47M) in a fresh round of funding.
The company’s focus is to accelerate accessibility to geospatial data and insights at scale, and drive metaverse innovation. Metaverse simply refers to the idea of a shared virtual platform that people can access through different devices and where they can move through environments digitally.
Investors in this round
The investment was co-led by Microsoft’s venture fund M12 and Point72Ventures, both joining a syndicate with existing investor Markus Wagner, founder of i5invest.
Samir Kumar, MD at M12, says, “Like many others, I first came to know about blackshark.ai’s capabilities based on their contribution to the new Microsoft Flight Simulator, but it quickly became apparent that the applications of their tech extend far beyond gaming. Blackshark is on its way to developing a new kind of semantic 3D base map of the whole planet including a digital twin of all structures on the surface of the earth!”
With this fundraise, Google Earth co-founder Brian McClendon, former Airbus Defense and Space CEO Dirk Hoke, and CEO of Applied Intuition Qasar Younis will join as advisors to the board.
How will the funds be utilised?
The proceeds from this round will help the company accelerate its platform’s accessibility across industries by ramping up the global go-to-market team as well as data scientists and developers.
Michael Putz, co-founder and CEO of blackshark.ai says, “Our vision is to democratise access to geospatial data and to help enable the next generation of technology that will build on top of a digital twin of our physical world.”
A digital 3D map of the infrastructure of Earth
Founded in 2020 by Brad Young, Michael Putz, and Thomas Richter, Blackshark.ai provides a 3D digital twin of Earth by extracting information from satellite imagery and reconstructing detected attributes in photorealistic 3D. The process is completely automatic.
According to the company, a scalable AI builds the core of the blackshark platform, detecting features globally with precision and speed. Michael Putz explains, “Our platform can process petabytes of satellite data in near real-time and accurately extract semantic information such as building footprints/heights, land use, bodies of water or infrastructure assets such as streets or rail tracks. This information alone is valuable for many industries and is used as an additional layer of input for the blackshark.ai platform to ultimately reconstruct the physical world in 3D.”
Last year, Blackshark debuted with its contribution to Microsoft Flight Simulator, which represents the entire planet in photorealistic 3D by building on top of massive computation power and a novel approach to AI.
The technology has since launched as a platform making geospatial data and 3D simulation environments available at global scale.
Applications running on the blackshark.ai platform include use cases for government, geospatial intelligence, humanitarian relief, metaverse/AR, simulation for autonomous driving and flying, deforestation monitoring, insurance, smart cities and more. Currently, the company serves large clients globally with a team of 100+ people based out of Silicon Valley, US and Graz, Austria, Europe’s computer vision hub.
Blackshark is also developing a Globe Plugin which is currently available in closed beta upon request. Several companies have already been integrating the Globe Plugin and SDK into their simulation tool chain in close partnership with the development team. General availability in the Unreal Engine Marketplace is planned for early 2022.
Earlier this month, the company had received an Epic MegaGrant which will be used to accelerate the development of the plugin.