Tomorrow.io is planning a “constellation” of forecasting radar satellites
Boston-based Tomorrow.io started out as a software company offering highly accurate street-level weather forecasts. Now it has set its sights on space.
The company recently launched Tomorrow-R1, what it claims is the world’s first commercially built weather radar satellite, via SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. There are very few weather radars currently orbiting the Earth, and they are all built by government agencies. The United States has one, operated by NASA.
Tomorrow.io has used proprietary software not only to forecast but also to help companies plan for severe weather. The information it used came from government radar, data satellites, weather stations, cellular signal attenuation, and even vehicles connected to wipers and temperature sensors — what CEO and co-founder Shimon Kabetz calls “the weather of things.”
However, the new radar satellite will provide a much wider range of data.
“We’re going to be a huge revolution when it comes to weather forecasting and climate modeling and we’re going to be able to help the National Hurricane Center hopefully get better hurricane forecasts and help insurance companies insure farmers in India and Brazil, and help airlines fly out of JFK,” Alkabetz said. To London by a safer route and with less fuel wastage.”
NASA’s radar satellite has a delay of three days or more in getting its information, simply because of the distance and number of times it passes over America’s domestic ground radar, which is what Americans typically see on the local news, and is not available in all locations. In fact, most of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, India and many other places lack radar coverage. Furthermore, ground-based radar does not cover specific mountainous areas in the United States, nor does it extend over the ocean. This makes it difficult for coastal areas to get accurate storm forecasts.
Satellites could provide coverage for billions more people.
Alkabetz said that the company intends to launch more than twenty of its own satellites during the next two years. Combined with microwave sensing technology, he says this will create a “constellation” of weather monitoring systems that will be able to sample every point on Earth, almost hourly.
“We place our own designed and manufactured radar on a dedicated satellite, and we place several of these radars along with another microwave sensor that will be placed on another satellite,” he explained. “Combining the two together will create a real-time global precipitation map that will cover essentially every point on Earth in near real time.”
Major customers now include several airlines, such as Delta, United and JetBlue. In a 2021 case study, JetBlue found that Tomorrow.io allowed it to know when a storm would stop, which helped it reduce unnecessary delays and cancellations, saving its operations team up to $50,000 per month per hub.
Other clients include Fox Sports, Uber, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and the US Air Force.
Tomorrow.io has been awarded more than $20 million in U.S. Department of Defense contracts and is executing a cooperative research and development agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to a press release.
(Tags for translation) Airlines