Planet Labs inks deal for Google’s satellite business

Planet Labs Inc., a startup that launches small
satellites into orbit and sells the imagery, is
acquiring the Terra Bella satellite business of
Alphabet Inc. in a bid to take on larger
industry incumbents.

In return, Alphabet’s Google is taking a stake
in the startup. Google has also agreed to
purchase satellite images captured by Planet
in a multiyear deal. The companies declined
to share financial terms.

“It’s a big deal,” said Will Marshall, Planet’s
chief executive officer. “What this enables us
to do is tap into new markets, like certain
aspects of the financial markets, insurance
and disaster relief.”

With the deal, Planet will receive seven high-
resolution satellites that Terra Bella currently
has in orbit. Planet plans to launch an
additional six of Terra Bella’s satellites. They
are larger than Planet’s existing satellites and
offer up to six times better imagery
resolution, Marshall said.

Google acquired its satellite division, then
called Skybox Imaging, for $500 million in
2014. Bloomberg News first reported on the
plan to sell the unit to Planet. About 60
Google employees are heading to the startup.
Planet has raised more than $180 million.

Marshall said Planet doesn’t need more
funding to pay for the influx of staff and
equipment, although the startup may raise
money in the future.

For its digital maps, Google currently buys
from the imagery company DigitalGlobe Inc.
Katie Watson, a spokeswoman for Google,
said the Planet deal would not affect its deals
with other imagery providers. 

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