Since 1997, ETSE Electronics has been developing products for a wide spectrum of clients and applications – these include solutions for space, military, agricultural and commercial applications. Initially, the company’s focus was on the development of RF and microwave communication systems but soon expanded to other areas in need of electronic hardware and embedded system solutions. Since 2014 the company’s focus has shifted towards developing and supporting its own product line. Two of the products, FarmRanger and FarmTrack, are agriculture-based, and one, CubeCom, is a space technology program focusing on CubeSats. In line with Space in Africa’s 2020 in Review series, we had a chat with Johann De Swardt of ETSE Electronics on what the company has been up to in 2020 and what to look forward to in 2021.
What milestones did you achieve independent of COVID?
In our case, it was business as usual, but because COVID-19 affected our topline, we took the time to focus on product development. We have improved our current products and started the development of a new product, the X-band steerable antenna.
In a recent interview, you mentioned that COVID 19 has impacted ETSE, in that it interfered with a partnership deal. What other effects has COVID 19 had on the business?
As ETSE, the effect was not much, but as CubeCom, our top line was impacted for at least half of the year.
What partnerships did you manage to acquire this year?
This year, we partnered with Dragonfly Aerospace based in South Africa and Nano Avionics on a payload with a camera for hyperspectral remote sensing, a new high-gain X-band antenna and an upgraded X-Band downlink transmitter. Our wideband X-band transmitter & antenna is a notable solution for satellite integrators, and we are negotiating partnerships with other South African companies.
Which product has stood out in the industry in the CubeCom segment this year?
That would have to be our X-band transmitter, XTX. It is now a mature product and the implementation of the DVB-S2 protocol makes it a low-cost competitor in the industry.
Are there any products you are developing in relation to the CubeCom range?
We are developing an electronically steerable antenna. It enables one to transmit data to the ground station while a camera is taking pictures in another direction. We believe that this will provide a huge benefit to earth observation satellite systems.
ETSE runs another range of products based on remote monitoring i.e. farm range products. How was their performance this year?
The Farm Ranger and Farm Track business section remained resilient as they are solving current problems in stock theft, which is very rampant in South Africa. However, the pandemic affected international trade and exports, which affected the business from this angle. It is not easy, but it has not been that bad for this segment.
What can the market expect from the CubeCom range come 2021?
Our XTX will be improved with even more functionality and our steerable antenna should be ready for production in 2021.
Njeri graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Finance, from the University of Nairobi and is a CFA Level II Candidate. Currently an analyst at Space in Africa, her experience spans across Project Finance, and the analysis of Venture Capital & Private Equity Ecosystems in sub-Sahara Africa, with a particular interest in Sustainable Sciences.