WindBorne secures USD 15Mln for AI-powered weather balloons & climate action

WindBorne Co-Founders (left to right), Kai Marshland, Andrey Sushko, Joan Creus-Costa, John Dean
WindBorne Co-Founders (left to right), Kai Marshland, Andrey Sushko, Joan Creus-Costa, John Dean

WindBorne Systems, an atmospheric sensing system and most accurate AI weather model, announced yesterday $15 million in Series A funding led by Khosla Ventures, which earlier led WindBorne’s pre-seed round in 2019 and will take a board seat. Existing investors Footwork VC, Pear VC, and Convective Capital also participated in the round.

The funding round comes three months after WindBorne unveiled its deep learning-based weather forecast model, named WeatherMesh, which has unseated Google DeepMind’s GraphCast as the most accurate medium-range global forecast model in the world. (WindBorne publishes real-time benchmarks for its model.)

The venture funding complements millions of dollars in revenue from government partnerships and contracts, including both research and development efforts and data-as-a-service contracts for WindBorne’s atmospheric observations.

WindBorne Systems

“Just as the privatization of space catalyzed huge leaps over the past few decades, we’re driving an equally exciting shift in weather technology,” said John Dean, WindBorne co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “Collaboration across government, research, and private companies will play an essential role, marrying the best of commercial innovation with global systems that can deliver a tangible, positive impact for every individual.”

“The emergence of generative AI and WindBorne’s AI-native tech stack will enable us to deliver a new, smarter kind of weather experience that’s bespoke and co-creative in ways that software has never been before,” said Kai Marshland, WindBorne co-founder and Chief Product Officer. “The ability to cost-effectively deliver these insights across any industry and company presents an enormous opportunity to not only reduce emissions through smarter energy use, but also to help every community better adapt to the extreme weather that’s intensifying in the wake of climate change.”

“AI is fundamentally changing weather prediction, which hasn’t been meaningfully disrupted since the 1990s, but is essential to better understand and address the impacts of climate change,” said Sven Strohband, partner at Khosla Ventures. “WindBorne’s novel balloon hardware coupled with autonomous flight software enables them to collect data no one else can, training a new generation of AI-based weather models.”

WindBorne weather sensing balloons gather 50X - 150X more data per dollar than conventional weather balloons.
WindBorne weather sensing balloons gather 50X – 150X more data per dollar than conventional weather balloons.

WindBorne’s data advantage

Since its founding in 2019, WindBorne has executed more than 1,000 flight missions via its global network of autonomous, long-duration atmospheric sensing balloons. The company now runs the most comprehensive, most cost-effective, and most sustainable atmospheric sensing system on the planet. Each balloon weighs just a few pounds, most of which is sand ballast. The balloons are equipped with proprietary sensors and customized avionics that enable real-time communication and navigation.

WindBorne balloons gather 10x more data per dollar over land, and 150x more data per dollar over oceans, compared to the alternatives: traditional, single-use weather balloons called radiosondes, which only fly for a few hours and gather a single data slice over land, and dropsondes, small sensing devices manually released from aircraft over oceans.

By comparison, WindBorne’s balloons use a fraction of the materials of traditional balloons and can fly for 40+ days. And unlike traditional balloons, WindBorne’s balloons are capable of changing altitude to gather targeted data slices, allowing them to collect critical atmospheric data anywhere. With each balloon navigating via directed paths, they can readily travel over oceans, deserts, and the Earth’s most remote places.

A WindBorne Global Sounding Balloon (GSB) flies autonomously over Bodega Bay, California.
A WindBorne Global Sounding Balloon (GSB) flies autonomously over Bodega Bay, California.

Traditional weather models are not equipped to meet the climate challenge

As extreme weather intensifies, the world faces an imminent environmental data and forecast modeling gap. The World Economic Forum (WEF) named extreme weather and weather uncertainty the biggest risk to businesses over the next decade. Forecasting inaccuracies continue to exacerbate loss of human life, as well as hundreds of billions in damages and uninsured losses every year. In 2022, for example, Hurricane Ian alone caused over 160 deaths and $115 billion in damages.

Better forecasts are essential to mitigating these losses; however, they hinge on filling significant real-time weather data gaps. Most noteworthy, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the globe lacks data for 85% of the atmosphere. WindBorne operates the only platform that can fully and cost-effectively close this gap.

Beyond data, there is also a key, new opportunity to improve forecast speed and accuracy through rapidly unfolding AI modeling technology. WindBorne innovates across the complete weather technology stack from proprietary data collection to AI-based modeling, making it uniquely poised to transform end-to-end weather intelligence.

Building a proprietary foundation model for weather

WindBorne will use the new funding to accelerate engineering across its technology stack:

  1. Scaling real-time data collection via its balloon constellation. WindBorne’s goal is to operate 10,000 balloons concurrently by 2028, offering complete global coverage with just 1/25th of the balloons launched globally today.
  2. Honing its autonomous flight software. Across its constellation of thousands of balloons, WindBorne will be able to dramatically enhance profile targeting and endurance.
  3. Advancing its record-breaking global AI-based weather forecast model. With its own foundation model, WindBorne will forecast more weather variables and increase forecast detail.

The company will also expand its technical headcount as well as strategic revenue teams, such as proposals and business development as it branches into the commercial sector and international governments.

WindBorne continues to expand its years-long work with U.S. government partners such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the U.S. Air Force, and the Office of Naval Research via its data-as-a-service offering. The company is now entering the commercial sector with its forecast offering, which has also been backed by the U.S. Air Force.

WindBorne has already fielded significant interest from a vast range of industries impacted by weather, such as agriculture, logistics, aviation, utilities, energy grid operations, live events & travel, and insurance. The company is now developing its first commercial trials for its forecast offering this year.

WindBorne’s team has uniquely fused “hard” engineering with meteorological expertise. Many employees have roots in the Stanford Space Initiative, while its head of meteorology is a veteran of The Weather Company.

WindBorne is also backed by Ubiquity Ventures, Susa Ventures, Jetstream Ventures, and Harvest Venture Partners, among others.


Also Read:

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