WASHINGTON — Swarm Technologies, a satellite communications startup infamous for launching four satellites without regulatory approval last year, has hired Kalpak Gude, a well-known spectrum and regulatory expert, to lead its global regulatory activity.
Swarm Technologies is preparing a constellation of 150 very small satellites for Internet of Things connectivity, but is better known for defying the U.S. Federal Communications Commission last year by launching four picosatellites on an Indian rocket without the agency’s authorization. The FCC fined Swarm $900,000 last month, and stipulated that the startup designate a regulatory compliance director to prevent similar missteps.
In an interview, Gude said he is not Swarm’s mandated compliance director, but will be helping Swarm navigate through the global regulatory landscape as its general counsel and head of regulatory affairs.
Gude previously handled regulatory affairs at global satellite fleet operator Intelsat before moving into a similar role at OneWeb, a SoftBank-funded startup preparing to deploy hundreds of broadband smallsats. Gude also handled regulatory activity for Panamsat, a satellite operator Intelsat bought in 2006.
Gude said his background will be “helpful in ensuring that [Swarm] can move through the governmental processes both at the FCC and around the world.”
“We understand the mistakes and we are going to put systems in place to resolve that,” he said of Swarm’s unauthorized launch.
Gude joins Swarm from the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, an organization that sought to make use of idle radio spectrum, where he served as president. He said the company plans to appoint a regulatory compliance director that will work with him and Swarm Chief Executive Sara Spangelo.
Gude said Swarm is planning a global service and will need to coordinate with regulators around the world for its connectivity service. He listed agriculture, transportation and government as markets of interest for Swarm.
Swarm’s biggest priority at present is getting FCC approval for U.S. market access with its planned constellation, Gude said. Originally described in August as 100 satellites, Gude confirmed Swarm’s application is for a 150-satellite system. He estimated that approval could happen by mid to late 2019.
Gude said Swarm should be able to start service rapidly once it launches more satellites, but declined to say how many would be needed to begin commercial operations. Swarm has seven satellites in orbit today. Swarm’s launch plans are currently paced by FCC approval, he said.