Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) College of Engineering have received a $7 million (£5.8m) grant for their orbital edge computing initiative.
Coming from the National Science Foundation, the funding will allow the Pittsburgh-based CMU to reimagine nanosatellite capabilities by shaping them into sophisticated edge computing platforms.
CMU anticipates the initiative will build the foundation for use cases across a wide range of novel applications in public safety, defence and intelligence, carbon mapping, traffic management, and even precision agriculture.
Today’s nanosatellites collect enormous amounts of raw data, so much that it’s impossible to downlink all of it to earth. The long loop required to beam just a portion of the data to the ground and then make sense of it also creates many latency issues.
With the researchers at CMU’s new approach, called orbital edge computing, the initiative will work to develop computationally capable constellations of nanosatellites, equipped with machine learning techniques that extract valuable insights from data while still in orbit
This will not only reduce the amount of information being sent to earth but will build the foundation for a wide array of possible responsive applications that operate entirely from space.
The new technology will help detect the initial signs of problems before they occur, according to principal investigator Brandon Lucia, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at CMU.
For example, it could allow for monitoring suspicious activity at large-scale events like the upcoming 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles or even help identify early signs of wildfires, enabling response teams to make mitigation efforts before forests are ablaze.
The project comprises world-leading experts in critical areas like federated learning, wireless communications, security and networking, and nanosatellite design, including Carnegie Mellon professors Gauri Joshi, Swarun Kumar, Zac Manchester and Vyas Sekar.
The grant will fund a large team of graduate students who will work to define the field, as well as provide the resources needed to build and launch satellites into orbit as part of a test deployment to showcase the new technology’s capabilities.
Want to learn more about edge computing from industry leaders? Check out Edge Computing Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California and London.
Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.