Kerala-based DCUBE Ai to partner Australian startups in space tech


DCUBE Ai, an artificial intelligence and machine learning applications company located in Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram, is venturing into space tech. It signed an MoU with Australian space tech startups SABRN and AltData during the recent Bengaluru Space Expo. The companies will partner with Adelaide University to provide health services to astronauts.

While SABRN is creating a health pod (E-Lifepod) to monitor the well-being of astronauts, DCUBE Ai will help with the pod’s sensor integration and analysis. DCUBE Ai was one of six companies that signed the MoU with Australian partners, says Binoop PI, CEO, in a conversation with businessline.

How do you assess the space tech initiatives of the Kerala government? 

Kerala has led the way in capitalising on technology and actively participates in technological innovation through investment, regulation, and testbeds. Technopark was conceptualised in the late 1990s. This was followed by the Space Tech park in 2019, even before the Centre had opened up its space programme. 

A sustainable ecosystem in space should start at the curriculum level where young scholars should actively engage with the industry to lead the race into space. Universities in the West have reached the capability benchmark with respect to the development and launch of CubeSats. A cross-pollination programme with them will leverage our students to draw from their experience.

Will you look to work at the intersection of space industry, AI, and sustainability? 

Space and AI work in tandem when it comes to climate change. In the space tech downstream ecosystem, AI plays an integral part in data processing and analysis. In a rapidly changing world and with unpredictable climatic conditions, traditional weather predictions fail big time. Onboard AI edge computing capabilities help minimise the downlink data with actionable insights to make quick decisions. A good example is the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) data on vegetation and emissions, which has a significant bearing on climatic change. The data can be used to mitigate its adverse effects. 

Are space applications for banking and insurance sectors of interest? 

This is quite a new area with vast potential. Our roadmap includes building capabilities to process satellite data using AI-powered ML models to extract information. The processed information can be used in decision-making in these sectors. While processing raw satellite data, the challenge will definitely be to arrive at meaningful insights. These will help agro banks and other financial institutions to support farm owners.

The projected demand for small satellites is growing. Do you see this as an opportunity?

Yes. The small satellite market is currently valued at $5 billion and expected to hit double-digit in the next five years. With the advantages of small size, low cost and short timeframe for development, this sector will definitely open up opportunities for many players. We have partnered with Australian companies building nano satellites/CubeSats. Since these small satellites orbit close to earth, they play a significant role in land observation and communications.

3D printing and additive processes are being talked about in the space industry… 

Additive manufacturing has been around for many years now. Rocket injectors and aircraft parts are 3D-printed today. The same applies to satellite parts/components too. Our immediate focus remains on our AI/ML capability for space tech. In future, we may expand into other areas.

Do you fancy your chances with satellite payload of PSLV missions? 

We signed an MoU with the Australian start-ups AltData and SABRN during the seventh Bengaluru Space Expo (BSX2022) as part of the International Space Investment initiative between India and Australia. As part of this project, we will be developing hardware and software that needs to be tested in orbit, and we see PSLV missions as a possible opportunity for testing and validation for deep space unmanned missions.

Some space startups are planning their own ground and launch stations…

Satellite remote sensing, communications, and navigation systems enable real-time access to valuable information to support science and defence operations. Because small satellites are being developed faster and for less money than their larger counterparts, the demand for ground station and launch services continues to increase.

Satellite data is one piece of the puzzle. Growing use of AI-powered ML models to extract common patterns of information from available data is another. The above two scenarios draw us towards ground stations to mainly manage real-time data and use AI and ML in agriculture, banking, automotive, health and defence sectors. 

Warfare, intelligence and defence… which among these is your focus area? 

When we signed our first MoU with SABRN and AltData to collaborate and develop AI-enhanced monitoring systems in the E-Lifepod, the aim was to develop such a system for hostile environments. Now, the definition of a hostile environment could be defence or even space. We will align our priority with the roadmap of our partner(s). Our focus will be on the applications and interfaces that we build for the above mentioned monitoring systems. 

Published on November 8, 2022

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