Your Space Journey

Revolutionizing Satellite Communications: An Interview with QuadSAT CEO Joakim Espeland on Using Drones

February 15, 2023 QuadSAT Season 4 Episode 2
Your Space Journey
Revolutionizing Satellite Communications: An Interview with QuadSAT CEO Joakim Espeland on Using Drones
Show Notes Transcript

Joakim Espeland is the CEO and co-founder of QuadSAT, a Danish company that has developed brand new tools and techniques for testing and calibrating satellite antennas using a drone-based solution. He has already led the company from idea to $million revenue and continues to grow it. Early on, this technology was recognized as a “game changer” for the satellite industry. Satellite operators see QuadSAT’s technology as being a valuable alternative to traditional methods of antenna testing and the European Space Agency (ESA) sees it as having considerable market value to the satellite industry. QuadSAT has already worked with some leading companies, including OneWeb, SES, ESA, and Oxford Space Systems, amongst others.

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Quadsat is a cutting-edge drone technology company that specializes in testing satellite communications. Their innovative drone-based solutions allow for quick and efficient testing of satellite systems, reducing the cost and time required for traditional testing methods. Quadsat's drones can fly to specific locations and simulate satellite signals, allowing for real-world testing of satellite systems. This technology can be used by satellite operators, telecommunications companies, and government agencies to test and optimize their satellite networks. With Quadsat's technology, companies can improve their satellite communications and ensure that their systems are functioning properly before deployment. Overall, Quadsat is a leader in the field of drone-based satellite testing, providing reliable and cost-effective solutions to a wide range of clients.

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Chuck (host)  0:00  
How can you use drones to improve satellite communications? Find out in today's episode 321

Hello, and welcome to your space journey. I'm your host Chuck fields. Want to thank you for joining me today. Today we're going to talk about a company called quad sat and how they're revolutionising the SATCOM industry by testing satellite communications using drones. Joining me today is Joachim Espeland, the CEO and co founder of QuadSAT, a cutting edge drone technology company that specializes in testing satellite communications. Their innovative drone based solutions allow for quick and efficient testing of satellite systems, reducing the cost and time required for traditional testing methods. QuadSAT drones can fly to specific locations and simulate satellite signals, allowing for real world testing of satellite systems. This technology can be used by satellite operators, telecommunications companies, and government agencies to test and optimize their satellite networks. With quad says technology companies can improve their satellite communications and ensure that their systems are functioning properly before deployment. Overall, QuadSAT is a leader in the field of drone based satellite testing, providing reliable and cost effective solutions to a wide range of clients.

Unknown Speaker  1:32  
Your space journey,

Chuck (host)  1:35  
Joekim, thank you so much for joining me today.

Joekim  1:37  
Yeah, thank you. Thank you for having me. 

Chuck (host)  1:40  
Well, it is it is an honor to have you because it I was really impressed with your amazing background. Just so far in engineering communications. I wanted to just talk about a few things that that really impressed me. And I think our audience would be impressed too. But you helped orchestrate. One of your amazing tasks was the first live broadcast from Easter Island. I was wondering, can you just tell us a little bit about that? It's fascinating. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that was, was quite interesting projects that we did. I met a broadcaster kind of randomly at slush, which is a startup conference in, in Finland. Why it's called slush is because it's in in December, and that's what the weather is in Finland in December. I understand.

Joekim  2:26  
So basically, we met after the event at a bar and he told me that his dream was to have a live broadcast from Easter Island. He he was a broadcaster that has been working on Lollapalooza and doing a lot of bands and these kinds of things in advance. And we got to the talkin and I told you, I told them, hey, the only way to get a live broadcast from Easter Island is through a satellite. So I work in the satellite. I think that this sounds like an amazing project. Let's let's take this forward and see what we can do.

So we we worked on this for, I think, several months before it actually came to fruition. He was able to get the funding. SCS actually launched their first satellite, the first commercial mission with SpaceX was an SCS satellite, and that was SCS 10. And that one was just put in orbit just a little bit a little while before we were going to Easter Island and it had just a small footprint going right over Easter Island. So we could use that. And we were able to make an agreement with a teleport in Longo Velo operated by Intel. We got to fly away antenna kit SATCOM kit that we set up on the island and we were able then to live broadcast the it was a rugby term tournament Rapanui. Seven, it was called so they flew in all these rugby turn rugby players from all over the Polynesian islands, and they all played against each other. And yeah, and it was, it was a blast. 

Chuck (host)  4:01  
Sounds incredible. And for you to have the vision to do it. I mean, that's just a pattern I think we're all going to get as this interview progresses. So that was amazing. Another thing the the interstellar broadcast of 21,000 poems, transmitted to the Coalsack Nebula, a mere 600 light years away. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Joekim  4:22  
Yeah, so that was in a very similar way it was. We got in contact with the poet's and they were looking to do something a little bit extraordinary for the 500 year anniversary of mageean, who had his sail around around the world. And we discussed this a bit back and forth. We were working with a lot of software defined radios in the company. And we figured we could make our own transmission and send a send it out then and focus on the Coalsack nebula which mageean used to navigate the ship all around. So we traveled down to Punta Arenas, which is all the way south in Chela. And we spent a couple of days there at a cultural center where we hosted a live event and did this transmission of the poems and everything. So, yeah.

Chuck (host)  5:21  
I just think that is so amazing. Again, two incredible things, but that you're just like you're just getting started. Because that leads us to quad set in which your technology has been recognized as a game changer. We're gonna talk about that a little bit more. It's drone, satellite communications, SATCOM for short. For me, it's it's a truly amazing field that impacts all of us. But I personally think sometimes the technology is taken for granted. People are just old stuff just works. So in your own words, why is SATCOM important

Joekim  5:58  
or fair, it's become so many so many reasons. And it keeps keeps getting it becoming more and more and more reasons why SATCOM is truly impacting the world. I guess, the biggest thing that we all our affected of every day is GPS, of course, no GPS, we wouldn't be able to get around in the way that we do. All the fantastic apps that we have that deliver food that takes you anywhere. And and all of this is is all relying on on GPS but also very importantly is the the ability to communicate anywhere in the world at any time. Basically SATCOM is the only solution for that. If you need to do something in a remote area, SATCOM is often your only only solution to do that, as well as cruise ships, and aircrafts. We all want to be connected all the time, hiring people in shifting now, it's so important for the to, to, to attract and retain talent, that you actually have communication on board that the people that are at sea, are able to communicate and stay in touch with their families.

And, of course, all of us when we travel now on the aircraft, we want to get a little bit of work done while we're there as well. So I think this and on top of this, you have all the monitoring looking at the Earth, which comes to, to, to climate change, monitoring, seeing what is happening at all the time and this will launch in more and more satellites. Now with different sensors, it's just going to keep giving more and more information. And as soon as we're able to basically take that data and do what we do best here on earth making great applications with it, making it presentable, making it understandable which is which is a big part of the job to be done in SATCOM it's not just about getting the satellites up there and getting the data down, you need to be able to actually process and manage that data in a good way. I think Iridium was the first Leo constellation. And I think it's such a great thing that there were where you can say it's the only way a polar bear can talk to a penguin.

Chuck (host)  8:27  
What made you decide to to co film CloudSat? And where did you come up with the innovative idea to use drones to test telecommunications? 

Joekim  8:36  
Yeah, so I used to work in the maritime oil and gas sector with installing SATCOM equipment on ships and oil and gas rigs. And this and that's where I discovered there was a little bit of a gap with satellite communication, satellite communication was was promised to be 99.9% uptime. And that's what your promise when you're on a satellite, but from the ground equipment, you need to take that also into consideration how dependable is that? And what I experienced was that we were always we would have these preventative maintenance contracts where you would come out you would look at the equipment and make sure that it was working correctly. But it was really difficult to test this and to know it for sure. Because when you are on board as a SATCOM technician to ship is always important.  So the only way that we actually had to test after a repair after a service was to take the whole ship out of port and sail it around in the port. And you can imagine this is not very, it was not the most fun part of my job to go and ask the captain if he can take it out then aboard port operations and these kinds of things and sail around. So we would do it more most of the time, but of course some of the times they would just know that this needs to work and they would just risk it and in where case scenarios it didn't work in, they can sail for quite a while before they the discovery the issues as well. So the idea actually started with that, instead of moving the shipper on the satellite, maybe we can take the satellite around the ship. And that's where the idea of the drone came that we could make take a satellite simulator, put it on a drone, and then fly it around to decrease this risk, essentially, obviously, also saving time, money, fuel, and pollution.

Chuck (host)  10:32  
I think that's amazing, because it truly is revolutionary. Because they've been, you know, testing antennas. It's one thing again, I think I kind of took for granted myself, I thought, Okay, well, the antenna works. But yeah, you're thinking the satellite, you know, how can you test that? feasibly, you can't wait for someone to launch a satellite and say, Oh, it's not working, you have to test that from the ground. So that's obviously transforming the industry. How has it impacted? Like, see satellite operators? How does it look to them now that they have access to this kind of testing technology? 

Joekim  11:03  
Yeah, so there's is so the satellite operators are ultimately the ones to stand and gain a lot from it. Because today, you test them antenna to factory, and then you get it to work, and then you send it out. And then and then it's not really tested that often. It depends on the size of the antenna and the value of the antenna, of course, satellite antennas vary from, from, from very small to very, very big ones. And there's this, there's, of course that, but there's not really any good ways of testing the antenna after it's left the factory. And that's really what what we what they're getting here. That is that you have an on location test that can be brought anywhere in the world and test at any time. And one of the big changes that we're facing now or two of two big changes that we're facing now in the SATCOM industry is is that communication systems are going from being lower from being geostationary being fixed in the sky, to being low Earth orbit. So all every satellite is moving. So this means that, that the antennas on the ground needs to be tracking all the time. And they didn't have to do that before because they will just be stationary. So the only antennas that will track all the time would be the one on the ships, on the aircraft's on the cars, and so on. These are the antennas to generate most of the interference in space, because with time and everything, they don't point as accurately anymore. And, and so now there will be a way to be testing this. And also with the with the low Earth orbit with having dynamic pointing all the time, you you have a whole new test that needs to needs to be done and can your your antenna might perform well electric in the electromagnetic spectrum. But can it perform well in mechanical tracking, so that it comes to new things to be be evaluated here. And that's hasn't been designed for in the traditional laboratories and tests, test facilities. So this is something that can be easily done with a drone is to simulate or emulate the trajectory of the satellite and make sure that the performance goes well there. Another part of it is also the new antennas that are emerging, we have an electronically steered antenna is becoming the things where you have a flat profile, the antenna integrates more into the aircraft or into the to where it's stationed these these antennas are said to be working on different orbits there.

And as well as changing and but the the electromagnetic performance here changes based on the angle that the antenna is pointing at. So it might point it might perform really well if it's if the satellite is right above it. But if it's straight ahead of it, it becomes a completely different electromagnetic performance. Right. And again, with the drone, here, you have so much flexibility because you're you can move it around and take any measurements that you want, fairly quickly. So this these are the benefits that are that are coming with the procedure that we're doing, which ultimately leads to a lot less interference, once all of these antennas get tested regularly is to a lot less interference for the satellite operators. And they will have more capacity that can be used on other things. 

Chuck (host)  14:31  
That's incredible. And it's already had just a major impact. Some of our audience may be familiar with one web. It's a company creating you said lowers or at Leo satellite system to improve connectivity around the world. I understand cloudset help one web with an antenna validation campaign in Italy in 2021. Can you tell us more about that? 

Joekim  14:50  
Yeah. So so we talk with one web and they have their landing stations one of the locations there is Italy where we could come in, and we can assess the performance of those landing stations, even before actually, the satellites are in full orbit so that you can test the performance and make sure that the handover process will work as it should be. So we did that both in Italy, we did it in Greenland, as well as Spowart up as far north that you can come within commercial airline. And, and, and we did this just leading up to the commercial, or the launch of the commercial services and, and an after we had been in there testing and also calibrating again. And it did network worked really well.

Chuck (host)  15:45  
And one thing too, I'm sitting there thinking just how hard it is to go from just an idea, you know, ideas I heard this a long time ago, you know, it's easy to come up with ideas, but to put them into place and to form a startup and to get funding. And to make it successful. I have to congratulate you and your your team for that. I understand just last summer, you received additional funding from Isa for your product phase development project. How will that impact quad set? 

Joekim  16:13  
So So we're actually just about closing that, that that, that now and ESA has been a tremendous support in what what we're doing quite early, we reached out to the European Space Agency, because we knew there was an incentive with them for testing and for developing tests and calibration of the ground equipment for antennas. So we reached out and they were very positive to setting up a project and working on this and they actually funded first our technology phase. So first going through and making a prototype. That prototype was then demonstrated in front of some of the major satellite operators and antenna manufacturers getting feedback on this, we took that feedback into consideration. And we went back to isa who said, Hey, we're ready, we want to build a product out of that we had done in the technology phase proven that the requirements that the satellite operators needs to measure to understand to qualify, an antenna to get on the network was possible to achieve. And now we built out a product that can then be operated by an antenna manufacturer or service companies themselves to just do a training program with us and then we can equip them with a with a drone. And the big game changer here is of course, instead of quad set traveling separately out to an antenna to test it. Why wouldn't the technician that is already there installing the antenna spending the time use the equipment before he leaves and make sure that everything is working before he leaves so in case anything is discovered it can be changed, it can be corrected right away, saving a lot of time and of course the extra traveling and what it is for us not that we don't like traveling we love to travel around and see everything but we believe there's a much greater scaling component here by getting it out to the people that are actually on the on the site and doing it will have much bigger bigger impact on the on the industry. 

Chuck (host)  18:19  
Wow, you can I guess I want to congratulate you for for just having the initial gumption and drive to start quads at and to make this revolutionary impact on the SATCOM industry. And I want to thank you for just sharing this information with me and our audience. Thank you so much for taking time to me today. Really appreciate it. 

Joekim  18:35  
Absolutely. Chuck was a pleasure. Thank you.

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