The Facts About UrtheCast’s Democratization of Earth Observation: Who We Are – and Aren’t
By David Bowles
UrtheCast Senior Legal Counsel
February 8, 2016
A recent news report by Steve Harrigan of Fox News, stemming from an article by Danny Hakim of the New York Times, included a number of misleading or false statements about UrtheCast Corp. (“UrtheCast” or the “Company”) that may lead to misunderstandings about our Company and what we stand for. We want to take this opportunity to set the record straight and give you the facts about who we are and what we do.
UrtheCast is a young, growing technology company – started just five years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia – but our vision is nothing less than the democratization of Earth observation. Using imagery from our cameras aboard the International Space Station (“ISS”), along with our Deimos-1 and Deimos-2 satellites, we are creating a cloud-based ecosystem on our web platform for ingesting, displaying, exploiting, and distributing satellite imagery and video to monitor a constantly changing world. We are proud of how our Earth observation imagery is used by our partners and customers for monitoring of the environment, humanitarian relief, social events, agricultural land, and for many other peaceful purposes.
We know that facts shouldn’t always get in the way of a good story, but of the many inaccuracies, explicit and implicit, in the news reports, there are a few we feel compelled to respond to:
- The Fox News television segment strongly implies that our cameras aboard the ISS are used for targeting weapons or similar military purposes. Our 5 meter and 1 meter resolution imagery has a lot of incredible uses, but weapons targeting is certainly not one of them. Imagery from our ISS cameras does not have anything like the systematic geolocation accuracy required for missile targeting and similar weapons applications – not even close. If this kind of imagery were useful for targeting weapons, militaries could and would use the higher resolution 30 cm imagery that Google Earth offers free of charge before they bought it from us. UrtheCast strictly abides by the ISS Intergovernmental Agreement, a 1998 international treaty signed by the fifteen governments involved in the ISS project, which establishes the international co-operative framework for the use of the ISS for only peaceful purposes.
- The Fox News television segment states that we are partly owned by the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. We are a publicly traded company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange with thousands of shareholders. Our largest shareholder is Fidelity, the second largest mutual fund and financial services group in the world, but like all publicly traded companies, the vast majority of our shareholders aren’t required to identify themselves, even to us. We are not aware, and have no reason to believe, that Roscomos is or has ever been an UrtheCast shareholder. All shareholder information is freely available on the SEDI website.
- The Fox News television segment includes a lot of Earth observation imagery; unfortunately, none of it is from UrtheCast’s cameras. Instead of using image and video samples from our cameras that are freely available in our Website Gallery, the news segment opted for dramatic military-grade aerial and drone footage of explosions. Such disturbing images may be good for ratings, but they have nothing to do with UrtheCast, the ISS or any of our imagery products.
- The news reports point out that we offer our customers imagery for surveillance purposes. That’s absolutely true and we’re extremely proud of the surveillance and monitoring work we’re accomplishing with the help of our customers and partners. Some of our customers include the likes of Global Forest Watch (GFW), a not-for-profit online forest monitoring and alert system designed to empower people with information to manage and conserve forest landscapes, or the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), which serves some 36,000 beneficiaries annually by conducting close to 500 capacity development and research activities around the world. With partners like GFW and UNITAR, imagery from UrtheCast’s cameras has been used to confirm the results of a University of Maryland study showing that clearing for rubber plantations has severely degraded Cambodia’s once widespread forests, or the tragic destruction of a UNESCO world heritage site. The unique features of our cameras aboard the ISS also allow us to deliver first-of-its-kind imagery, like the videos captured by our HD video camera, Iris, used by Pepsi in its groundbreaking Pepsi Challenge campaign. And sometimes, our ISS cameras can change our perspective on the planet and inspire us in a completely unexpected way, like when Iris recently captured a water-skier carving in the Aegean Sea.
Although our vision and ambitions are anything but modest, today we are closer than ever to achieving our goal of democratizing Earth observation imagery. We are now a global team of ground segment operators, software developers, designers, map lovers, GIS experts, engineers, imagery scientists and space geeks working together to bring the world a powerful perspective on our evolving planet. (The space geek in us appreciates Fox using a Star Trek backdrop with the Enterprise and some Klingon Birds of Prey for its story – unfortunately, our R&D team has yet to do any substantive work for Starfleet, but we’re hopeful that will come in due course.)
We look forward to showing the world – and the media – the amazing things our partners and customers are able to accomplish using our imagery and web platform. We know the UrtheCast story is unique and innovative, involving complex technology to tackle new challenges in new markets. We only ask that reporters take the time to portray the story accurately and uphold their well-earned reputations for fair, honest and balanced journalism.
About UrtheCast Corp.
UrtheCast Corp. is a Vancouver-based technology company that operates four Earth Observation sensors in space, including two cameras aboard the ISS and two satellites, Deimos-1 and Deimos-2. Video and still image data captured by these sensors are downlinked to ground stations across the planet and displayed on the UrtheCast web Platform, or distributed directly to partners and customers, supporting a wide range of information-rich applications and services. Common shares of UrtheCast trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange as ticker ‘UR’.
For more information, visit UrtheCast’s website at www.urthecast.com.
This blog entry contains certain information about UrtheCast which constitutes “forward-looking information” within the meaning of Canadian securities laws. Forward-looking information involves statements that an action or event “will” occur (or similar language) and includes statements about plans operate cameras on the ISS, display data on the web platform, proposed imagery products and expected partners, customers and uses for such products. These statements are subject to various risks, many of which are beyond the ability of UrtheCast to control or predict, and which may cause UrtheCast’s actual results to be materially different, including, but not limited to, the cameras or Deimos satellites failing to operate as expected, as well as those factors discussed in the Company’s prospectus supplement dated June 24, 2015 to its short form base shelf prospectus and amended and restated short form base shelf prospectus dated May 15, 2015, as each such shelf was amended on June 19, 2015 (together, the “Prospectus”) which are available under UrtheCast’s SEDAR profile at www.sedar.com. Forward-looking information is developed based on assumptions about such risks, uncertainties and other factors set out herein, in the Prospectus, and as disclosed from time to time on UrtheCast’s SEDAR profile. UrtheCast undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements except as required by Canadian securities laws. Readers are cautioned against attributing undue certainty to forward-looking statements.