ST Engineering leads $30 million fundraising for satellite IoT startup

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TAMPA, Fla. — Israeli startup hiSky said Dec. 8 it raised $30 million to mass-produce compact terminals designed to connect internet of things (IoT) devices to satellites in multiple orbits.

Singapore-based aerospace and defense technology provider ST Engineering led hiSky’s Series A funding round, which also attracted the United Arab Emirates’ Strategic Development Fund (SDF) investment arm in addition to existing investors.

ST Engineering said its investment is strategic because hiSky’s Smartellite terminals are compatible with hub stations managed by ST Engineering iDirect, the Singaporean group’s U.S.-based satellite communications business.

Low Ka Hoe, president of satellite communications at ST Engineering, said in a statement that the company’s strategic investment enables ST Engineering to offer hiSky’s IoT satellite terminals with ST Engineering iDirect’s satcom network hubs and network management solutions, providing customers an IoT solution that makes use of their existing infrastructure.

ST Engineering’s investment came through ST Engineering Ventures, the company’s corporate venture capital arm.

Shahar Kravitz, co-founder and CEO of hiSky, said that UAE’sparticipation in the funding round would help the startup “rapidly expand” in the region.

According to hiSky, the startup has deployed commercial services via satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) in areas including North America, Israel, West Europe, South Africa, the UAE and India. 

The Israeli venture lists satellite fleet operator Intelsat as a partner and regional players Avanti, Hispasat, Yahsat, Spacecom and Thaicom.

Customers are buying hiSky’s services for a wide range of markets, hiSky chief business officer Nitzan Raz told SpaceNews, such as oil and gas, digital farming and vessel tracking.

Raz said hiSky’s low data rate (LDR) satellite services “can be very affordable thanks to utilizing the existing Ka/Ku [spectrum] capacity in GEO satellites.”

LEO expansion

Raz expects to significantly increase its customer base after demonstrating that hiSky’s Smartellite terminals can also connect with satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO).

The startup announced plans Aug. 31 to demonstrate its technology over LEO with a payload called Ella1 to be hosted on Spire Global’s Lemur 3U satellite expected to launch late next year.

Spire Global, which went public in August by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, is developing certain elements of the payload, including its software-defined radios, as part of a space-as-a-service offering it provides in addition to its space-based data and analysis services.

The European Space Agency and UK Space Agency provided undisclosed funding for Ella1 through the ARTES Core Competitiveness Program. 

Raz said hiSky hopes to launch Ella1 in the fourth quarter of 2022, although the timeline is under discussion.

In addition to accelerating mass production, hiSky aims to use Series A proceeds to expand research and development activities and recruitment. 

Founded in 2015, the venture currently employs 45 people at its headquarters in Rosh Ha’ayin, Israel, and 25 people in its U.K. offices.

The funding comes amid growing investment and commercial activity among satellite IoT startups, some of which are planning their own, dedicated smallsat constellations.

Scottish startup R3-IoT and Silicon Valley-based Skylo are among those also leveraging third-party satellites for their low-power IoT networks.