Geospatial imaging company uses Swifty drones to capture detailed mapping data.

In today’s world, we rely on satellite maps, detailed imagery, and precision geolocation data more than we may even know. Whether it’s GPS navigation apps on our phones or obstacle identification for autonomous vehicles, access to clear, high-resolution geospatial data is crucial. GPS images are also valuable for numerous other industries, including insurance, utility, conservation, and government operators.

Near Space Labs of Brooklyn, New York, has carved out a niche in this arena by harnessing its fleet of proprietary zero-emission robot drones to high-altitude balloons to produce timely, scalable 10 cm images for a variety of applications.

Another Type of Swifty
Near Space Labs’ workhorse product is known as Swifty (not to be confused with the fandom for pop music artist Taylor Swift). This autonomous drone flies between 60,000 ft. and 85,000 ft. into the stratosphere using a high-altitude weather balloon to capture data. From those altitudes, the drone can capture 400 to 1,000 sq. km (154 to 386 sq. miles) of imagery per flight—roughly the size of all five New York City boroughs—at a resolution of 10 cm per pixel.

The Swifty captures high-resolution images while hanging from a high-altitude balloon.

The company has captured more than 820,000 images over 410,000 sq. km through early 2024.

Assisting the Insurance Industry
Insurance companies are among the key users of Swifty’s data. By integrating high-quality property data into their workflows, insurers can gain insights into property conditions, enhance disaster response plans, and reduce losses from recurring claims. The ability to access before-and-after images allows insurers to more accurately determine losses. In addition, these images serve as a reliable source for claims without the need for costly on-site visits. They can also help accelerate and authenticate claims, which benefits both insurers and their clients, while helping identify fraud.

Imagery from Near Space Labs can be used across various industries that rely on high-quality mapping data.

Risk Assessment and Prevention
Beyond claims processing, Swifty imagery aids insurers in risk assessment. For example, insurers can alert clients about missing tiles or roof damage. By preventing future losses, insurance companies improve their overall risk-management strategies.

Conservation and Government Applications
Near Space Labs also provides high-resolution imagery for conservation efforts, assisting with mapping remote and hard-to-reach areas, including tracking changes involving deforestation, easement properties, trails, beach erosion, and crop yields. Government uses include municipality growth monitoring, utility projects, transportation infrastructure upgrades, and future-expansion planning.

The Swifty incorporates a robot drone attached to a high-altitude balloon.

Artificial Intelligence Partnerships
In October 2023, Near Space Labs partnered with Coldpress AI to provide a more intuitive exploration of its geospatial imagery. Additionally, Near Space Labs is collaborating with Betterview, a property intelligence and predictive analytics company, to further enhance risk assessments, underwriting accuracy, and claims efficiency.

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Jen Boyer

Jen Boyer

Jen Boyer is the principal of her own firm, Flying Penguin Communications. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and holds commercial, instrument, flight instructor, and instrument instructor ratings in helicopters and a private rating in airplanes. She has worked as a professional journalist and marketing communicator in the aviation industry since the early 1990s.