The News Today
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11.17.18
Earth & Energy

How a Tiny Satellite Fleet Will Track Millions of Animals

September 10th 18__Jon Christian__Filed Under: Earth & Energy
Argos/Victor Tangermann

YOU GET A SATELLITE! YOU GET A SATELLITE!

French spacetech startup Kinéis says it will vastly expand the reach of satellites that track livestock and wildlife animals — from about 20,000 tracking devices at present to more than a million over the next ten years.

Kinéis has pledged to make Argos, a satellite tracking system that’s currently only accessible to researchers, available to the general public for as little as a few euros per year. Kinéis is hoping the low price will attract new swaths of customers, who don’t have reliable internet connectivity (think: subsistence herders who would track livestock, or fishermen who need a reliable distress beacon).

TINY SATELLITES? (RELATIVELY) YES.

To create the system, Kinéis plans to launch a “constellation” of 20 nanosatellites. They’ll each weigh just 25 kilograms (55 lbs), and orbit at an altitude of 600 kilometers (372 miles). The platform will debut next year, but won’t be at full capacity with the entire satellite fleet in place until 2021.

The company is working with France’s space agency to launch the shoebox-sized satellites. Once in position, the satellites will  collect location or temperature data from whatever they’re attached to—an animal, shipping container, or other movable objects.

DEMOCRATIZING ORBIT.

Unlike the old Argos system, which collected new location data every four hours, the new system will update tracker locations every 15 minutes. The company claims that high-resolution data will be a huge boon to animal researchers who need to track the movements of endangered animals, and farmers who want to keep tabs on large or free-ranging herds of livestock.

“This is one of our main ambitions — to democratise these technologies,” Kinéis director Alexandre Tisserant told the BBC. “It has to be this way to be successful, otherwise they will remain in the hands of a few rich institutions or for very specific needs.”

READ MORE: “Internet of Animals” Spreads its Wings [BBC]

More on animal tagging: “Cow FitBits” Won’t Make Cows Happier Because They’re Not Milk Robots