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How Ubotica is bringing AI to Space

How Ubotica is bringing artificial intelligence to satellites making them more efficient in how they process images

An interview with Tony McDonald who has recently joined the Ubotica Technical Advisory Board to assist the senior team with growth across the space sector.

Q: What is your background in the Space sector?

A: I am a former Member of the Irish Delegation to the European Space Agency (ESA) including ESA Council, Joint Communications Board, Navigation Programme Board, Industrial Policy Committee and former Deputy Head of the Irish ESA Delegation.

Q: Why do Irish Space companies promise huge growth potential?

A: Well, as part of my role with the European Space Agency, I was working with a broad number of Irish companies in the space sector. Irish companies are carving out a reputation for technical excellence and the development of innovative solutions in the rapidly growing global space technology market, currently valued at in excess of $400 billion and projected to exceed €600 billion by 2026.

ESA is the primary gateway to this exacting and high potential market for Irish firms. ESA is the primary means by which Irish companies can qualify products for use in space to gain access to the global space market. There are currently over 90 Irish companies actively engaged with ESA.

The number of new Irish companies engaging with ESA developing technologies and applications for the space market has doubled over the past 5 years.

Ubotica is one of those Irish companies which is blazing a trail in the space market. The team are bringing artificial intelligence and edge processing to satellites to make them far more efficient in how they process images and send them back to Earth.

Q: How will you be assisting the Ubotica team?

A: I will provide strategic advice to the CEO and the Senior Executive Team, especially with regards to facilitating access to the space community and the space market.

I am looking forward to working with the Ubotica teams in Ireland, The Netherlands, Canada and Spain. Ubotica is an innovative technology startup providing smarts for smart satellites which I believe has huge growth potential with its products and services which are used by global space industry partners to deliver real-time insights directly to users.

Space solutions have become such an integral part of everyday life, and I see opportunities for Ubotica’s technology across a whole range of different commercial sectors.

Q: Where do you see Ireland’s place in the global Space industry?

A: Ireland didn’t really have a strong tradition of space companies in the early stages of the space race, so we’re coming from a different starting point building on the recent growth in Ireland of innovative technology companies. So, if you look at the Irish companies developing the space sector, there is a relatively high proportion of small, innovative startup companies who are taking technologies from other sectors into the space market,

Q: Where do you see future growth for Ubotica?

A: With Ubotica’s technology innovations, it can access many market verticals. In today’s world space has become such an integral part of economic activity. We are using data from satellites for numerous industries from agriculture, environmental monitoring, financial services, energy, air traffic management and much more.

Q: You will working with the Ubotica teams around the world?

A: Yes, I am also based in Dublin near Ubotica’s Head Quarters at Dublin University and with teams in Ubotica’s other locations.

Many companies that I worked with are based at universities. Like Ubotica, it enables access to research as well as accessing the knowledge pool within the universities. This includes technical expertise and sometimes specialised technical facilities as well.

Q: Why is there so much interest in Ubotica right now?

A: The European space community is very interested in AI and edge computing solutions, which Ubotica’s technology can deliver, especially with the first deployment of AI enabled satellites with the recent Phisat mission. So, Ubotica really does represent a major leap forward in space technology. I believe it is a good example of an innovative technology startup bringing its technology to the competitive space market.

In the future, I see Ubotica has growing potential to become involved in the commercial space market as well as in institutional space missions.

Q: Why is it often difficult to recruit for space companies?

A: There continues to be a resource issue in the space sector. Finding employees with the right skill set continues to be a challenge. The growth in the market and space activities in general is generating a growth in demand for skill sets and for skilled people. If you look at the Irish national space strategy for enterprise, there was a specific element of that strategy around building up the skill sets to grow the space sector in Ireland.

Companies in the space sector require employees to have quite a diverse range of skills.  These can range from specific technical skills as well as knowledge and experience of space systems, engineering, integration and space qualification. Various education authorities are building up the technical skillsets that are required, and that’s an ongoing process.

This is one further reason why so many space companies currently partner with universities which also brings to the table specific technology, knowledge, and awareness.

Space has become so embedded in a whole range of different commercial sectors and applications. So, this is where, again, the skill sets become an issue as the teams will also need to have a broader understanding of how the solutions will be applied across various market sectors.