$37m to bring high-altitude balloon company to Victoria

Brandon How

Breakthrough Victoria has invested $37 million to bring US-based observation balloon company World View to the state, its largest single investment to date.

The company will use the funding to establish its Indo-Pacific headquarters in Melbourne and an advanced manufacturing facility elsewhere in the state, the $2 billion state government-backed investment fund announced on Friday.

The facility is expected to create “up to 200 high-tech, high-value jobs in engineering, manufacturing, flight services and support, mission control, data and material sciences, and analytics”.

A World View balloon.

World View’s remotely operated dual-balloon system can take images of the Earth’s surface through high-resolution photos as well as infrared, radar, and hyperspectral capabilities. The balloon can have flight durations of up to 45 day, weighs 50kg, and has a power capacity of 250MW.

It can serve as an alternative to satellites or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for applications like climate change research, agricultural monitoring, bushfire tracking and communications. Observation balloon images also have greater resolution than satellites given their proximity to Earth.

Breakthrough Victoria is hoping that World View’s expansion to Victoria will allow the state to become a hub for stratospheric remote sensing research that would also extend to other unviersities and research centres around Australia.

“World View’s innovative solutions have the potential to revolutionise various industries, from remote sensing to communications”, Breakthrough Victoria chief executive Grant Dooley said.

The investment is Breakthrough Victoria’s largest since it was established in 2021, surpassing the $29 million it spent to bring US-based quantum company Infleqtion (previously ColdQuanta) to the state in October 2022.

In March, Mr Dooley told InnovationAus that the fund had invested in 22 innovative companies (not all of which have been announced), one fund, one grant and six University Innovation Platforms with commitments totalling over $300 million, amid criticisms of the fund’s value for money.

World view chief executive Ryan Hartman on Friday said that “Australia, especially Victoria, offers access to incredibly skilled talent, cutting-edge technology, promising partnerships, smart capital and significant geographic leverage to support our Indo-Pacific remote sensing and future space tourism operations”.

The capabilities are also useful for Defence reconnaissance and intelligence gathering purposes. World View has previously participated in tests for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence.

Additional investment in World View follows the close of a Series D funding round earlier this year. This was led by the Sierra Nevada Corporation an aerospace and defence company which entered a strategic partnership with World View in 2022.

Defence, aerospace and space manufacturing is a key priority of the Victorian Government’s  Made in Victoria 2030 vision. The sector is already worth $8.4 billion and support exports of $350 million.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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