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Bill Gates invests in $1 billion global satellite surveillance project

Microsoft owner Bill Gates is among the main backers of a Washington-based satellite startup which seeks to provide real-time surveillance of Earth.

The cost of EarthNow’s project could reach up to $1 billion (€930 million) and will launch 500 satellites to provide live and unfiltered coverage of the planet.

As well as Gates, the other three investors in the project are aerospace giant Airbus, O3b Networks founder Greg Wyler and Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, but the company will not disclose how much each has contributed.

Serving governments

EarthNow mentions that the product will primarily serve governments, while leaving open the possibility to becoming available to individuals.

“We will initially serve high value enterprise and government customers in need of real-time Earth observation,” the EarthNow website states.

“Because EarthNow is a very high capacity system, we eventually expect to serve millions of consumers, such as via an app on any device,” it adds.

The 500 satellites, weighing 225 kg each, will have their cameras honed in on Earth on a 24-7 basis, providing video feedback with only one second of delay.

“The native video resolution, combined with image enhancement techniques, is designed to enable event monitoring and tracking applications consistent with existing and future customer requirements,” EarthNow states.

While the product is being marketed by founder Russel Hannigan as a way to “connect people visually with the Earth in real time,” the stream will essentially act as a form of Big Brother surveillance, with high-quality live video at the mercy of governments and other agencies.

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