First Story Positive: This 25-year old entrepreneur dreamt of space, now battles Climate Change

Awais Ahmed, founder of Pixxel, uses hyperspectral satellite imagery to collect data that could help reduce the impact of climate change

First Story Positive, Awais Ahmed, Pixxel, -

Necessity is the mother of all creation. Whenever the need arises, human ingenuity always triumphs in the face of insurmountable odds to find a solution to a problem. Such is the case with Bengaluru’s 25-year-old entrepreneur, Awais Ahmed. Armed with encyclopaedias, Awais dreamt of exploring space, the galaxies and the universe, aspiring to be an astronaut ever since he was a little boy.


He joined BITS (Birla Institute of Technology and Science) Pilani in 2015 for engineering, during which he joined a satellite team that worked on satellites with ISRO scientists. During his second year of college, Awais Ahmed got an opportunity to found Hyperloop India’s along with a few of his fellow engineers. He participated in Elon Musk’s SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2017 and went on to become one of the finalists. 


Participating in a competition by SpaceX, his team manufactured a hyperloop pod with limited resources and went to the SpaceX factory in Los Angeles. Seeing the mesmerising Falcon 9 rocket there, he realised that space was his calling and he wanted to make a lifelong career in it. He wanted to explore how space can be used to contribute to the betterment of the planet.


He started digging deep into space technology and found satellite imagery to be an area that could be explored. He zeroed in on hyperspectral imaging satellites and launched Pixxel in February 2019 with Kshitij Khandelwal and two other engineers. Their goal is to create and launch a group of advanced imaging satellites called hyperspectral imaging satellites. These satellites would be capable of capturing images of every location on Earth every day.


In essence, Pixxel monitors the pulse of the planet according to Awais. He adds that with the help of the information captured by the satellites, it can help companies make better decisions for their businesses. For example, when fertiliser companies buy their data, they can find out where nitrogen is lacking in the soil by using a nutrient map. Companies can also check the performance of their crops and identify areas where crop diseases are more prevalent. Its clients are spread across various fields like agriculture, oil and gas, mining and environmental businesses.


Pixxel has launched three satellites so far and is gearing up to launch six more this year. Earlier this month, Pixxel inaugurated a 30,000 sq ft Spacecraft Manufacturing Facility in Bengaluru. In April 2022, it launched 'Shakuntala' on the SpaceX Falcon- 9 rocket, becoming one of the first Indian companies to launch a commercial satellite.