TerraRad Tech is commercializing passive microwave radiometers derived from the technology developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) for use on the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite. Due to miniaturization the sensors can be installed on commercial drone systems. The technology harnesses the potential of remote sensing and offers opportunities like: field-mapping in precision agriculture, active wildfire mapping, ice and snow monitoring, hydrology and risk assessment.
The drone-based microwave sensor is capable of producing soil moisture maps for increased efficiency in water use, but also biomass maps to track growth and maximize yield per area. The patented sensor is fundamentally different from visible imagers, infrared sensors, and radars, due to its ability to “see” through vegetation, and into soil thanks to the long wavelengths in use.
Radiometers have not been previously commercialized due to two primary constraints. One, a large and heavy antenna was necessary to get adequate resolution. Two, microwave electronics were prohibitively expensive. To overcome this, TerraRad Tech designed and patented a miniaturized antenna for its microwave radiometer attached to a commercially available drone. Taking advantage of the decrease in the cost of microwave components, driven by 5G and IoT technologies, TerraRad Tech delivers an affordable and portable solution controlled by land-based operation.
The microwave device is offered as sensor hardware along with affiliated software packages. This includes air-based (multi-rotor-drone) but also ground-based tasks. Some examples to name are recommendations for harvest timing, irrigation timing, and best timing for field-mapping flights.
TerraRad Tech is a spin-off company of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and an incubatee of ESA BIC CH since January 2022. They are based on the Innovation Park Zurich and recently closed their pre-seed financing round.