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Vexcel Buys Assets from Verisk to Improve Aerial Imagery

Vexcel, which has recently started selling high-resolution aerial imagery to governments on demand, has now scooped up part of another company in an effort to improve the data it provides to customers.

Post-tornado destruction
Vexcel Imaging captured this aerial photo of the damage caused by a tornado.
Vexcel Imaging
Vexcel Imaging, a Colorado-based company that collects geospatial data, has acquired a fleet of airplanes and other imaging assets from risk analytics company Verisk, now a part owner of Vexcel. By combining their efforts, they hope to build the world’s largest library of geospatial imagery, which governments and other customers could use for things like property assessment, urban planning or natural disaster response.

According to a news release last week, Vexcel bought imagery-surveying teams and assets from Geomni, a subsidiary of Verisk. Geomni President Jeffrey Taylor told Government Technology that Geomni itself, including its staff and assets focused on analytics, will remain with Verisk, and Verisk will have representation on Vexcel’s board. He said Geomni as a business unit has existed since 2016, when Verisk decided that geospatial imagery would help its risk analytics business.

Taylor described the deal, which is expected to close in the next few weeks, as a practical and financial decision for both companies. He said Verisk and Geomni had been flying planes and capturing geospatial imagery all over the United States to be analyzed mostly by insurance companies, while Vexcel was hiring aircraft to collect imagery for its growing data library. Both were spending millions of dollars on activities of mutual interest.

“Verisk cares more about the analytics, and Vexcel, who makes cameras, wants the imagery itself,” Taylor said. “What this does is, it accelerates the ability to get more done, to get more imagery.”

For Vexcel, creating the world’s biggest geospatial database is a matter of building out its core product: geospatial information as a service, to give clients access to up-to-date, ultra-high-resolution aerial imagery so they don’t have to manage their own hardware and storage. When he talked to Government Technology about it last July, Rob Carroll, the director of Vexcel’s National Data Program, distinguished the product from other aerial surveillance by pointing out that while drones produce high-res data in small areas of interest, and satellites cover broad areas with lower resolution, Vexcel covers broad areas in ultra-high resolution. He said state and local governments could find this useful for planimetrics, mapping and zoning, property appraisal and even emergency response.

Vexcel CEO Erik Jorgensen said his company’s acquisition of select Geomni assets includes several hundred staff and a fleet of planes, although he anticipates Vexcel will still contract with other fleets to collect some data. He added that the planes will continue doing work for old Geomni customers too, as needed, despite new ownership.

“There were competitive elements between the two companies,” Jorgensen said. “We definitely believe this alignment allows us to drive toward what is the clear-cut best imagery library. If you look at what both companies have done to date, there was quite a bit of overlap, and by bringing these together and the synergies we get from that, we think we’ll be able to create an even better combined product.”

Last July, Vexcel was looking for state and local government customers. Jorgensen said the company has some now, although he wouldn’t elaborate beyond saying Vexcel’s information as a service has been used by departments of transportation, tax assessors, planning and development departments, and departments of forestry. He said Vexcel is also expanding into Australia, New Zealand and Europe with a number of large global clients, and many in the insurance and high-tech mapping industries.

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.