On Tuesday, Google agreed to pay $500M for Skybox Imaging, a tech startup that delivers high resolution satellite images. The acquisition is intended to consolidate Google’s impressive positioning in the geospatial mapping space by keeping Google Maps “accurate with up-to-date imagery.” Currently, Google licenses data from more than 1000 sources to keep its maps up to date, including satellite vendors Astrium and DigitalGlobe. The acquisition of Skybox promises to provide near real-time updates to Google maps in addition to expanded, high resolution coverage. Google noted that the acquisition could be used to “improve internet access and disaster relief” by leveraging Skybox’s satellite technology to deliver internet connectivity to parts of the world where the internet is currently lacking.
Skybox commented on its synergies with Google in a blog post about the acquisition as follows:
Skybox and Google share more than just a zip code. We both believe in making information (especially accurate geospatial information) accessible and useful. And to do this, we’re both willing to tackle problems head on — whether it’s building cars that drive themselves or designing our own satellites from scratch.
Founded in 2009, Skybox innovated in the satellite space by creating cheaper satellites than its competitors by using “off-the-shelf components.” Mountain View-based Skybox has raised $91 million in capital from venture capital firms such as Khosla Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners and claims approximately 100 employees. In addition to acquiring its satellites, Google stands to claim ownership of Skybox’s data processing capabilities for mining and running analytics on massive amounts of satellite data. As reported in Forbes by Ellen Huet, Skybox mines over 1 TB of data daily. Skybox launched its first satellite, SkySat-1, in November 2013.