A New Ballgame: Satellite Image Data Increasing

The business and technology press today has a number of articles about Google selling its in-house satellite imaging subsidiary Terra Bella to Planet Labs.  (The acquiring company still answers to the name “Planet Labs,” but now calls itself just “Planet.”)  From a business perspective, Planet Labs now becomes the leading satellite imaging provider and will continue to provide imagery for Google’s use.

From a technical perspective, Planet Labs will soon be operating the largest fleet of satellites in orbit.  Planet Labs specializes in large numbers of small satellites.  Its fleet will soon include three tiers of satellites providing multiple levels of imaging resolution.  Planet Labs currently has 60 medium-resolution capable (3-5 meter resolution) satellites aloft.  Today’s transaction will transfer 7 high-resolution (sub-meter) SkySat satellites.  Planet Labs plans to launch 88 “cubist” satellites this month.

To me, the most interesting part is about the data.  This expanded fleet will enable Planet Labs to accomplish one of the “Holy Grail” achievements of spatial imaging: imaging every location on Earth every day.  Besides exciting new business opportunities, this new capability should lead to some new data visualization methods and new data organization methods “focused” on analyzing changing geographic characteristics.

The Infrastructure Architect in me is also curious about how these firms store, retrieve, cache, and protect all that rapidly expanding data.  Alas, that information was not provided.

For more details, check out the articles by The Atlantic, Forbes, and Tech Crunch.


(Image courtesy NASA.)

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