Young entrepreneurship in India has yet another example. In the field of space technology, a startup called Pixxel by two twenty years old student entrepreneurs from BITS Pilani, namely, Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal are about to take off. This startup is building a constellation of mono-satellites that will help in remote sensing and imagery which will eventually be helpful in predicting and solving current problems in various sectors like agriculture and mining.
There has been an increasing demand for these miniature satellites that weigh anywhere between 1 to 10 kgs. These small satellites are relatively low cost, easier to manufacture, light weight and are able to provide real time remote sensing and surveillance data for monitoring and forecasting needs in various sectors. Pixxel works towards building a constellation of earth imaging mono-satellites that help in real time remote sensing, developing artificial intelligence to analysis the data collected by the satellites, make accurate predictions and solve existing problems.
It also plans to use the technology to map out resources on mars, moon and the asteroid belt and therefore help in space exploration. The startup states that they are manufacturing first of its satellites and by 2021 the first constellation will be complete which will be continuously expanded and replaced. They are backed by a growing number of mentors who comprise of BITS Pilani alumni. Pixxel cofounders say that early next year the nano-satellite will be delivered into the earth’s lower orbit and will provide real time sensing data. Pixxel cofounders researched on the inherent problems in sectors like agriculture and petroleum to identify how these problems can be solved through satellite imagery and data.
Due to their ability to transmit high resolution remote sensing data from multiple locations for multiple domains, the nano-satellite segment is expected to be the fastest growing within the small satellite market. Tie satellites, combined with advanced artificial intelligence can solve agricultural problems like irregular rainfall, inadequate irrigation and pest infestation. Other problems include sustainable development, food security, illegal mining and deforestation.
The co-founders were also faced with certain challenges like arranging funding for the startup, deciding the payload and the core functionality of the satellite. They fortunately found mentors and development partners who helped raise capital after realising that they were technically adept and serious about the startup. The duo proved their mettle many times in global space industry competitions including the one run by Elon Musk’s spacecraft company SpaceX. They both were among the few selected people who formed tie Hyper-loop India team at the international Hyper-loop Pod Competition run by SpaceX. Awais helped with manufacturing, outreach and fundraising activities. While Kshitij helped with control systems teams to Hyper-loop India.
It wasn’t easy for the duo given the scarce availability of mentor ship and lack of literature on the internet on developing technology like this. This success at the Hyper-loop Pod Competition made them realise that they can build satellites as well and help in representing India in the field of space technology.