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A company called EarthNow said on Wednesday it plans to use a large constellation of satellites to provide "live and unfiltered" footage of almost anywhere on earth, accessible from smartphones and tablets and available for app makers. That's a "dramatic leap forward" from today's systems, which transmit video clips at slower speeds, EarthNow said.
The footage could be used for projects like tracking illegal fishing, tracking animal migration patterns and monitoring forest fires, EarthNow said.
The company, also backed by Airbus, was founded in 2017 and was spun out of Intellectual Ventures, a firm known for its massive patent portfolio.
Satellites have become a cornerstone of SoftBank's flush Vision Fund, beginning with a 2016 investment in OneWeb, which also backs EarthNow. OneWeb CEO Greg Wyler told CNBC last year that SoftBank CEO and telecom mogul Masayoshi Son had a wide network of existing relationships in the industry.
The EarthNow investment round comes amid broader excitement about the space industry in private markets. Elon Musk's SpaceX, for instance, is testing a new internet service through a network of satellites.
The Wall Street Journal and GeekWire earlier reported some details of EarthNow's project. Representatives of SoftBank and Bill Gates did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the investment, but Airbus confirmed its role in the round.
— CNBC's Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.