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    Intel Powers PhiSat-1 Satellite With AI On Board

    Intel AI
     

    Intel powers PhiSat-1 satellite with AI on board to increase the computing strength.

    Artificial Intelligence has unleashed a new era of creativity and ingenuity. Intel technologies power some of the most promising AI use cases in business, society, and research. From massive cloud to tiny device, Intel turns the promise of a transformative AI model into a global-scale reality.

    Intel announced its contribution to PhiSat-1, a new tiny small satellite that was launched into sun-synchronous orbit on September 2. PhiSat-1 has a new kind of hyperspectral-thermal camera on board, and also includes a Movidius Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit. That VPU is found in a number of consumer devices on Earth, but this is its first trip to space and the first time it’ll be handling large amounts of local data, saving researchers back on Earth precious time and satellite downlink bandwidth.

    PhiSat-1 is actually one of a pair of satellites on a mission to monitor polar ice and soil moisture, while also testing intersatellite communication systems in order to create a future network of federated satellites.

    The first problem on the Myriad 2 is how to handle the large amount of data generated by high-fidelity cameras like the one on PhiSat-1.

    “The capability that sensors have to produce data increases by a factor of 100 every generation, while our capabilities to download data are increasing, but only by a factor of three, four, five per generation,” says Gianluca Furano, data systems and onboard computing lead at the European Space Agency, which led the collaborative effort behind PhiSat-1.
     At the same time, about two-thirds of our planet’s surface is covered in clouds at any given time. That means a whole lot of useless images of clouds are typically captured, saved, sent over precious down-link bandwidth to Earth, saved again, reviewed by a scientist (or an algorithm) on a computer hours or days later only to be deleted.

    AI on board the PhiSat-1 will be handling automatic identification of cloud cover images where the Earth is obscured in terms of what the scientists studying the data actually want to see. Getting rid of these images before they’re even transmitted means that the satellite can actually realize a bandwidth savings of up to 30%, which means more useful data is transmitted to Earth when it is in range of ground stations for transmission.

    “Space is the ultimate edge,” says Aubrey Dunne, chief technology officer of Ubotica. “The Myriad was absolutely designed from the ground up to have an impressive compute capability but in a very low power envelope, and that really suits space applications.”

    “Intel has given us background support on the Myriad device when we’ve needed it, to enable PhiSat-1’s AI using our CVAI Technology,” says Dunne.

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