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Air Force One in 3D ?

mar 01-12-2015

Update: Thank you to GEB reader Clare for tracking down this article which lead us to positively identify the aircraft in the 3D imagery as a Boeing E-4B tail number 31677 as seen here and here. Also there is this YouTube video of it landing in Tallinn, Estonia. It is not one of the two Boeing VC-25’s normally used as Air Force One. It is used for transporting senior politicians amongst other things. For more on the capabilities of E-4B’s see the Wikipedia page.]

Thank you to GEB reader Ryan for letting us know that what appears to be Air Force One has been captured in Google’s 3D imagery.

Is this one of the aircraft used as Air Force One?

Technically Air Force One is the call sign of any aircraft the President of the United States is on. So, given that the President wasn’t on this aircraft at the time it can’t technically be called Air Force One. However, it may be one of two aircraft currently used as Air Force One. It does appear to be the correct model of aircraft, or at least very similar, but the paint scheme is wrong and although we were unable to read the tail number it does not appear to be either 28000 or 29000 that are the tail numbers of the current aircraft used for Air Force One.

Based on comparison with historical imagery, the 3D imagery appears to have been captured sometime between February 2013 and March 2014. We can see the same aircraft in the same spot in historical imagery dated February 11th, 2013. In the image dated March 13th, 2014 we can see, in the neighbouring spot, an aircraft that does have the correct paintwork for Air Force One.

The 3D imagery was captured at McConnell Air Force Base, which is primarily used for air refuelling and airlift and the fleet of Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers can also be seen in the imagery (both 3D and historical).

According to Wikipedia, Air Force One is usually operated from Andrews Airfield, Maryland. There, in an October, 2012 image, we can see what appears to be both the Aircraft used as Air Force One:

And other aircraft with “United States of America” painted on the side:

And going through historical imagery we can find other examples:

Aircraft that previously served as Air Force One are kept in the National Museum of the US Air Force. However, they are kept inside a hanger so they cannot be seen in Google Earth. You can, however, see them in the Google Maps version of Street View or in a Street-View-like virtual tour created by the Museum.

We can see some other interesting aircraft at the museum that have been captured in 3D:

There are also some interesting markings on the runway, whose purpose you can learn more about in this post

The USA is not the only country to designate specific aircraft for the sole use of the head of state. Wikipedia has a list of such Aircraft for a number of other countries. If you are able to find any of them in Google earth imagery please let us know in the comments.

For the locations featured in this post download this KML file.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The best of Google Earth for November 2015

lun 30-11-2015

There have been several imagery updates during the month of November, but since Google has not been publishing imagery update maps we cannot determine the full extent of the updates. However, we can, using the Google Earth API, determine the approximate locations of recent imagery, including imagery captured in the month of November. Most of the November imagery is concentrated in Australia, New Zealand, and southern and eastern Asia. There are a few patches of imagery in West Africa and Brazil. There is no imagery for North America or Europe, most likely because winter does not provide good photographic conditions in those locations. It is fire season in Australia, but we have so far been unable to find any fires or signs of burning in the imagery. There is one image in Ecuador, most likely related to a magnitude 5.4 earthquake, whose epicentre was not far from the location of the image. However, we were unable to see any signs of earthquake damage.

For a map of the approximate locations of November imagery download this KML file. If you find anything interesting in the imagery please let us know.

Earlier in the month we looked at a number of sights that could be found in older imagery, including floods in South Carolina and a major flooding event in Japan.

We had a look at a virtual flood in southern California created by a problem with Google Earth’s water surface incorrectly displaying in an area that is below sea level but is actually dry land.

We looked at a number of new Street View releases, including Ecuador and Bolivia, Kampala, Uganda and historical sites in Jordan.

The Google Earth API is set to stop working on December 12th. Because of this, Paul van Dinther of PlanetInAction kindly released two tools that he had that he had created for his own use. The first one is a Tour maker based on the Google Earth API and the second is a program that can control Google Earth via the Liquid Galaxy protocol. We also had a look at a tool called GEGrids that is based on the Google Earth API and has proved useful in mapping land use in East Africa, which is aiding in the study of wildlife in the region.

As we traditionally do, we celebrated Thanksgiving with a Google Earth Thanksgiving card and showed you how to create your own.

We had a look at Planet Labs’ progress and had a look at their imagery of Southern California, which they have made available under the creative commons licence.

The post The best of Google Earth for November 2015 appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Controlling Google Earth via the Liquid Galaxy protocol

ven 27-11-2015

Given that the Google Earth API is coming to an end we are looking at alternative solutions. Yesterday we had a look at Google Earth’s internal browser and what its capabilities are. Today we are looking at a way of controlling Google Earth from another application.

Liquid Galaxy is the name given to a Google Earth demonstration using multiple displays to give an immersive experience. To see it in action, see the photos and videos on of various installations here. Liquid Galaxy works by allowing Google Earth on one computer to communicate with instances of Google Earth on other computers and synchronize their views so as to give the impression that there is a single instance of Google Earth running across multiple screens. To achieve this, Google Earth has a special Liquid Galaxy protocol that can be used to instruct Google Earth to show a particular location from a particular angle. It is possible to use this protocol for uses other than Liquid Galaxy installations.

Paul van Dinther of PlanetInAction has kindly released a small program that demonstrates this functionality. It is a Windows only program called GExplorer and it replicates the functionality of a JavaScript by the same name he created that works with the Google Earth plugin.

See this YouTube video to get an idea of what it does:

To try it for yourself first download the program here (Windows only).

Next, you need to configure Google Earth to accept Liquid Galaxy protocol instructions. To do this you need to edit the drivers.ini file found in the Google Earth program folder. The file is typically found in the folder
C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google Earth\client (for Google Earth)
C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google Earth Pro\client (for Google Earth Pro)

We found Windows Notepad does not display the file properly so you will need a more advanced editor. We used SciTE which can be obtained from here. Edit the drivers.ini file and insert the following lines at the start of the SETTINGS section.

ViewSync/send = false
ViewSync/receive = true
ViewSync/port = 21567
ViewSync/yawOffset = 0
ViewSync/pitchOffset = 0.0
ViewSync/rollOffset = 0.0
ViewSync/horizFov = 60

It should look like this:

Windows will not let you save it directly to the Google Earth program folder so save it on your desktop and then copy it to the Google Earth program folder.

Start Google Earth and GExplorer and make sure the GExplorer window is on the same monitor as Google Earth.

Initially nothing will happen because GExplorer is broadcasting to the wrong IP address. Click on the “Get my broadcast IP” button to adjust the IP address or type it in if you have different network requirements (Such as an actual Liquid Galaxy setup with multiple computers). If all is well it should say “UDP Connected” in red.

Next click “Start”.

The Google Earth view should now leap to the start latitude and longitude location. You will also notice that the view moves around as you move your mouse. You can now control Google Earth with a combination of the WASD keys and the mouse. SHIFT and CTRL can also be used to control height. Amplify any control input by holding down the spacebar with any combination of the above keys.

The view animates smoothly based on control inputs. The responsiveness can be modified with the “Inertia” dropdown. Low numbers means more responsive.

“Tilt limit” specifies the maximum angle you can look up or down. Try changing it to 90.

As you turn left or right the camera automatically rolls like an aircraft. If you don’t want this behaviour you can turn it off by ticking the “No roll” checkbox.

You can also switch between “Earth”, “Moon” or “Mars” by changing a dropdown.

Paul also suggests the great idea of creating a mobile app with the same functionality which would allow you to control Google Earth from your mobile phone. If any of our readers creates such an app please let us know about it in the comments.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth’s internal browser

jeu 26-11-2015

With the demise of the Google Earth API fast approaching we are looking at what alternatives are available. For some use cases, one possibility is to try and implement what you want to do within Google Earth rather than with the Google Earth plugin. In order to see what is possible we need to know more about the capabilities of Google Earth’s internal web browser.

Google Earth’s internal browser is most obvious when you open a link in a Placemark or if you click the “Earth Gallery” button found at the top of the Layers section. Depending on your settings this will open a web page in Google Earth. However, we prefer to have Google Earth open links in our normal browser. You can achieve this by turning on the setting “Tools->Options->General->Display->Show web results in external browser”.

What we are most interested in is the fact that Google Earth’s internal browser is used in Placemark popups. Because Placemarks are rendered using a browser you can do many things in them that you can do in a web page. We have seen in the past that it is possible to use Adobe Flash in Placemarks and one of the built-in layers uses this functionality. However, most people will not have it installed and may have difficulty installing it. JavaScript, on the other hand, works well and should work for everyone.

So what browser does Google Earth use? We can put a little JavaScript in a popup and it will tell us:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; N; ; en-US) AppleWebKit/532.4 (KHTML, like Gecko) Google Earth Pro/ Safari/532.4

For comparison the current version of Chrome says:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/46.0.2490.86 Safari/537.36

The important part is “AppleWebKit/532.4”, which tells us that it is based on the same layout engine as Google Chrome, Safari and Opera. However, it is an older version than the one currently found in those browsers.

Popups also support the IFrame tag, which allows you to insert any external website into a popup. This means that we can easily do a feature test with the website

As you can see above, it is not very HTML 5 compatible, attaining a score of only 119 out of 555, whereas the current version of Google Chrome scores 521 out of 555.

To try the above tests for yourself in Google Earth download this KML file.

In future posts we will explore what functionality can be achieved with popups and JavaScript.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Creating Thanksgiving cards with Google Earth

mer 25-11-2015

Back in 2006 Frank created a Thanksgiving card for Google Earth. Today we are looking at how to go about creating your own Thanksgiving greetings cards with Google Earth.

Firstly, you need an image with your Thanksgiving greeting. The easiest is to simply find a suitable image by doing a Google image search for ‘Thanksgiving’. Keep in mind that there may be copyright restrictions on such images, so they should really only be for personal use. Alternatively, you can get a bit more personal by creating your own image. That way you can write your own unique message. Ideally, you want to end up with an image that is roughly the correct proportions for the location you want to display it and also has a transparent background. Keep in mind that to use transparent backgrounds you need to save the image as a .png or .gif. We used Microsoft Word to create the image then took a screen shot and used Gimp to give it a transparent background. We used some clipart from

Next, you simply create an image overlay in Google Earth (click this icon on the toolbar). Adjust its size and location to suit and select your image to be shown.

If you wish to send your greeting to someone else be sure to save the image overlay as a KMZ file so that it includes the image in the file. KML files do not include images.

If you want to go all out, you could also decorate the sky, as we did for Halloween. Just download this file and replace the image in the overlay with your own Thanksgiving themed image.

Frank’s original Thanksgiving message. See it for yourself in Google Earth with this KMZ file

An updated version showing how easy it is to do. See it for yourself in Google Earth with this KMZ file

The post Creating Thanksgiving cards with Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Jordan historical sites get Street View

mar 24-11-2015

Google has just released Street View for more than 30 historical sites in Jordan. Read more about it on the LatLong Blog.

It can be a little difficult to explore the locations in Google Earth. As we have mentioned before, Google Earth has some problems with the blue Street View layer not showing correct coverage at some zoom levels. When you hold the ‘yellow man’ above the map, Google Earth shows blue outlines marking areas with Street View. This is achieved by having a set of blue outline layers with different amounts of detail to be shown depending on what distance you are viewing the earth from. However, it appears that Google either fails to update some of the layers or has a problem with their algorithm for creating it. Although the new Street View in Jordan can be identified from a high altitude the moment you start to zoom in the blue disappears and it can be quite difficult to actually enter the Street View for many of the locations.

An additional problem is that once you are in Street View there are no indications as to the extent of the coverage or where you can navigate, so you just have to click in a direction and see if you can go there.

We therefore recommend exploring the new Street View in Google Maps. If you do prefer Google Earth then we have created some placemarks for a number of the sites to get you started.

Little Petra

Umm Qais Archaeological Site

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Wild Dogs and the Google Earth API

lun 23-11-2015

We recently came across this interesting article about how researchers have created a land cover map of East Africa, differentiating the areas with human land cover vs areas that remain natural. The map will be useful for studying many different species of wildlife in the area, but it has already proved useful in the study of African Wild Dogs.

The map was created using a tool called GE Grids created by Andy Stanish and available here. It creates a grid over a specified area and you can select or de-select squares in the grid. So, for the East Africa map in the article above researchers looked at the satellite imagery and selected areas that showed signs of human habitation or land use. Very simple but remarkably useful. This highlights the usefulness of the Google Earth API, which Google plans to shut down next month. In this particular case the tool does not use historical imagery or other features unique to Google Earth, so it would be relatively easy to convert the tool to use Google Maps instead. However, there are plenty of other applications and tools out there which will have no real alternative after the Google Earth API comes to an end.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Importing geotagged photos into Google Earth

ven 20-11-2015

A GEB reader recently asked us how to import geotagged photos into Google Earth. We are not looking at geotagging/geolocating which is the process of attaching a latitude and longitude to a photo. We are assuming this has already been done either by the capturing device, such as a smart phone, or by some other means after the image was captured. Geotags are typically stored in the image in a format known as EXIF.

As we have seen with Landsat imagery, Google Earth Pro can read geolocation information from files when they are used as image overlays. However, we found that neither Google Earth nor Google Earth Pro have built in functions for reading the EXIF data from photos. We found Picasa has functionality to create a KML file based on EXIF data but it uses Google Earth to do so and the latest version appears to be incompatible with the latest version of Google Earth and we were unable to get it to work.

So we thought it might be useful to have a JavaScript based way to do the job. We found this useful JavaScript library for reading EXIF data and some sample Python code in Google’s KML documentation.

This is the result:

Create KML file


  • You can select multiple files and a single KML containing all of them will be created.
  • You may have to set your camera to include the location data in the photos, as it is often turned off by default for privacy reasons.
  • The KML created does not include the photos themselves but instead has links to the photos.
  • Move the downloaded KML file into the same folder as your photos before opening it in Google Earth.
  • To share the collection with other people you can save it as a KMZ file from within Google Earth and it should create a single file that includes the photos inside it.
  • The JavaScript works entirely within the browser so your photos are never uploaded to the internet.
  • If you find bugs or have suggestions for improvements please let us know in the comments.
  • The direction the photo was taken is not stored in EXIF data. You can, if you wish, adjust that later in Google Earth.
  • We have ignored the altitude in the EXIF data and defaulted to 10m above ground level. You can adjust it later in Google Earth.

The post Importing geotagged photos into Google Earth appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Planet Labs progress

jeu 19-11-2015

In March this year we had a look at Planet Labs, a satellite imaging company whose goal is to use large numbers of small, cheap satellites to image the entire globe as frequently as possible. In this respect they are quite similar to Google’s Skybox Imaging and Satellogic.

Planet Labs is making good progress and expects to achieve daily global coverage some time during 2016. To showcase their imagery they have released a Google Chrome extension called Planet View which is almost identical to Google’s Earth View, that we have looked at in the past.

They have also made available an archive of imagery of the state of California. Access to the imagery is currently controlled and is intended for people wishing do develop applications around the imagery using provided APIs rather than for casual use. However, the imagery itself is being shared under an open license with few restrictions other than the requirement to give proper attribution.

We downloaded an image captured in the same region as the Landsat image we looked at in this post. We are not sure what resolution the imagery is but we would guess about 2 to 3m per pixel. This is not nearly as good as DigitalGlobe imagery that can be better than 30cm per pixel, but considerably better than Landsat imagery at 30m per pixel. For comparison see the same location below seen with a Planet Labs image, Google aerial imagery and a Landsat image.

Planet Labs image.

Google aerial imagery.

Landsat image. Landsat may be capable of slightly better resolution than this as this image was compressed slightly when imported into Google Earth.

The Planet Labs image was provided as a 22Mb tiff file. In converting it to JPEG in order to make it a bit smaller for sharing we ran into the same problem we have with Landsat imagery in that JPEG does not support transparency. It does, however make it ten times smaller, so it is worth it, even though it creates a white background around the image. To see the Planet Labs image in Google Earth download this KML file. To see the Landsat image of the same area for comparison, download this KML file.

The burnt area is much more visible in the Landsat imagery, probably because it uses a different range of light frequencies.

The post Planet Labs progress appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Street View comes to Kampala, Uganda

mer 18-11-2015

Thank you to GEB reader ‘ecksemmess’ for letting us know about new Street View imagery in Kampala, Uganda. It was added at about the same time as the Turkey, Ukraine and Macedonia imagery and can be seen in the Street View changes map that we did for that post.

Street View extent for Kampala, Uganda.

When your property is in high demand you need to post a ‘not for sale’ sign. See in Google Maps

Practically every shop in Kampala is advertising one or both of the two main mobile phone companies (MTN in yellow and Airtel in red). For a challenge see how long it takes you to find a location that does not have at least one cell phone reference in view. See in Google Maps

Sign reads “Sky Guest House, executive accommodation” but the arrow appears to point between two buildings. See in Google Maps.

You may also wish to stay at Mama Claire Hotel & House of Bread. “We serve you break fast lunch with all kinds of dishes” See in Google Maps

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

The Paris attacks in Google Earth

mar 17-11-2015

As has most of the world, we have recently been following the news about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and our hearts go out the the families and friends of the victims. As Google Earth enthusiasts we of course wish to explore the locations in Google Earth. However, although many news outlets use Google Earth in their reporting it is not common practice to share locations via KML. So we thought we should create this small KML file with the key locations and share it with our readers.

We found the locations mostly by using Google Earth’s search and the names of locations mentioned in the news, but we also used the Wikipedia page on the events for the locations of the suicide bombings near the stadium.

We found the Washington Post has a well presented summary of the events, but they got one of the locations (the Casa Nostra pizza restaurant) in the wrong place on their map.

We also noticed in this video by CNN they make good use of Google Earth and Street View, but for some reason do not have the new 3D buildings turned on. One possible reason why they chose to do this is that the 3D imagery often does not look very good when viewed from a distance, as can be seen in the above screen shot. It is only when you look up close that it really excels and looks better than a mix of satellite imagery and the old manually created models.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Street View comes to Ecuador and Bolivia

lun 16-11-2015

Thank you to GEB reader ‘ecksemmess’ for letting us know that Ecuador and Bolivia recently received Street View.

New Street View in red, existing Street View in blue. World map.

Cochabamba, Bolivia. See in Google Maps

We found a stretch of road in Bolivia where one of the cameras appears to have been faulty. See in Google Maps

An electric Bus in Quito, Ecuador.See in Google Maps

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Tour maker with the Google Earth API

ven 13-11-2015

With the end of life of the Google Earth API approaching, Paul van Dinther of has decided to release a tool he created for his own use that uses the Google Earth plugin for making Google Earth Tours. Paul van Dinther has created a number of games based on the Google Earth API that we have featured on this blog, possibly the most sophisticated of which is a ship simulator. When he realized the Google Earth API would eventually be shut down Paul decided to base the next version, Ships 2 Career, on Google Maps instead. It will lack the 3D that the Google Earth API provides but we believe it will still be a great game and popular with ship enthusiasts. You can follow the development on his Google+ page.

The tour maker can be found here. To use it you will need to open it in a browser that still supports the Google Earth plugin. We tested it in Firefox but we believe it should also work in Safari.

Paul has provided the following instructions for using it:

Navigate to the location where you want the tour to start. (Sorry, there is no find location).

Set up your first start view exactly as you would like it to appear. You can use all the Google Earth navigation methods to set up your view.

Click the “Add view” button to add the first view to your view list. By default the speed at that point is 10 meters per second (more about that later).

Set up your next view and click “Add view” again. You need to add the third point before the track is drawn. Make sure you keep the spacing between the points reasonably even, because otherwise the cubic spline (a smooth curve between points) becomes hard to control and starts to do funny loops.

Now you have a spline with 3 points. You can left click and drag any of the numbered view markers in the Google Earth plugin to adjust the path. The spline will flip to a low resolution spline while you are manipulating the points.

Each point is represented in the view list in the right sidebar. It shows the point index, an input box for speed in metres per second, an input box for the view altitude and a delete link. You can click on any entry in the list and the Google Earth plugin view will teleport to that view.

IMPORTANT: While on that view you can adjust your camera tilt and heading (but not roll). You do this by holding down CTRL and left-mouse-drag the view (standard Google Earth behaviour). The new camera orientation will be stored for that view point as long as the camera latitude and longitude coordinates did not change. Both heading and tilt are controlled via the spline.

The altitude is also controlled by the spline. You can change the altitude of a point by holding down the right mouse button and dragging the point. Alternatively you can change the altitude in the view list (second input box).

Timing: Each point will have a speed defined for it in meters per second. The speed varies smoothly as it is also controlled by the spline. However, it is possible to lock the duration of the tour to a precise time by entering the duration in the “Duration (sec)” input box. All the speeds are then scaled to match total duration. Clear the Duration field if you don’t want the speeds to be scaled. By default the duration is set to 60 seconds.

Once you hare happy with your track you can save it by clicking on “Save project” this causes a file with the project name to be generated and placed in your download folder. Use this file later if you want to work on this track. To load a project, refresh the page and click “Choose File” and select the file you just saved. Crude but there still is no decent local file implementation in browsers.

You can specify a Field of View (FOV) for the tour. The default Google Earth FOV is 60 degrees but you can adjust that. FOV is not animated and applies to the whole tour.

Once you have your tour and the path looks reasonable, the tour can be tested by clicking “Test kml”. The program will generate KML and show it in the text area under the view list. You can copy and paste the KML straight into Google Earth Desktop without turning it into a file. The test feature will also load the KML data into the plugin and the tour starts automatically. “Generate KML” does the same but doesn’t start a tour in the plugin.

The “Make project” button is not relevant for you. It produces data that I import into my own software that translates the tour for each of my 9 screens.

“Rebuild spline”, “update track” and “rebuild track” are debug functions. However, if you update the altitude of a point in the view list you will want to click “Rebuild track” to see the changes.

Paul also says:

This has to be the ugliest program ever written. But it does the job I need it to do. It’s not very user friendly but I produced amazing animations with it.”

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth API – one more month to live

jeu 12-11-2015

In December last year Google announced the deprecation of the Google Earth API (also known as the Google Earth Plug-in). It is set to stop working one month from now on December 12th, 2015. The documentation page for the Google Earth API states that it will be shut down on that date.

The reason Google has given for terminating the Google Earth API product is that it is reliant on an ageing technology called NPAPI which is not considered secure and most browsers are dropping support for it or have already done so. In addition, it was never available on mobile platforms.

Google Chrome never included support for NPAPI in its 64-bit version released in September, 2014. The 32-bit version of Chrome gradually dropped support for NPAPI (and with it the Google Earth API) initially making it harder to access in April, 2015, and finally dropping support altogether with the release of Version 45 in October.

We believe Safari still supports it.

It still works in Firefox and we still find many uses for it, such as for finding recent imagery releases. Download this KML file to see the location of imagery in Google Earth that was captured in November (less than 12 days old!).

The Google Earth API has many great uses. We showcased a number of them in this series of posts earlier this year. We at GEB believe Google should consider allowing the GE plugin to continue to work at least until a suitable replacement is in place (with the next version of Google Earth, perhaps?).

If a complete replacement is not planned, Google should consider making some of the services available via the Maps API or entirely new APIs. For many of the most common uses, simply adding a few more features to the Google Maps API would make a big difference. Currently it is not possible to use the 3D imagery or tilt the view in the JavaScript Google Maps API, although it is possible with the Android version of the API. We use the historical imagery information quite a lot, which could be provided as a standalone API.

My flying skills could use some work. GEFS Online is a popular flight simulator based on the Google Earth API.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Maintaining our map of 3D areas

mer 11-11-2015

Yesterday we had a look at the progress made by Google in releasing 3D imagery for Google Earth. For this we used this KML map that we maintain that shows the areas covered by 3D imagery. This has been made possible with the assistance of a number of dedicated GEB readers who have contributed to our map. Until recently the outlines were being drawn by GEB reader Anton Rudolfsson, who also came up with the idea of the timeline section. He has had to stop drawing outlines due to other commitments. A big thank you to him for his contributions.

Since then a number of other readers have been sending in KML outlines which we incorporate into the master KML file. A big thank you to all these contributors. Also a big thank you to all the 3D hunters who find new 3D areas and let us know about them. Until now, they have been using the comments in this post to report the locations of new finds. However, there are now so many comments that it is becoming difficult to scroll to the end, so we would like to ask all contributors to start using the comments in this post from today onwards. In addition, please try and keep comments to a minimum just noting new areas covered with 3D or for messages to fellow 3D hunters. If you have any questions for us or notes about errors in the KML, please email us directly if possible, using either the Contact us page or my email address: timothy at

If you wish to submit outlines please first read through the instructions found here.

Combining the outlines we receive into the master KML file is largely a manual process. We have created scripts, such as this one, to make it easier to do this, but it is still laborious. However, given the positive feedback from GEB readers we believe it is worth the effort.

As various 3D areas are expanded and merged, getting the outlines correct can be quite complicated.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google Earth 3D Imagery progress report

mar 10-11-2015

[Update: It turns out the September figures are wrong (thank you Frank) due to errors in the KML not being handled well by the Area calculator we used. Here is the updated chart.


It has been a while since we last looked at the progress of 3D imagery in terms of area covered. If we got our map and calculations reasonably correct then it seems September was a particularly good month as far as new 3D is concerned. Take the figures as approximate as we found significant discrepancies in our totals suggesting we have some mistakes in our KML map (which we are looking in to). It must be noted also that we are looking at areas not previously covered with 3D or expansions to existing areas. Google has released a significant number of updates to already existing 3D, but that is harder to track, so we have not attempted to keep a record.

Area in square kilometres of 3D released by Google. Areas calculated with the help of this site.

If you are interested in the areas by country, you can download the figures as a .csv file here. US states are listed separately as the US has more coverage than the rest of the world. California alone has more 3D than any country in the world other than the US.

It is hard to put an exact date on most of the 3D imagery, but when we have been able to identify the date the imagery is typically released six months to a year after it was captured. One reason for the long processing time is that Google puts extra effort into certain structures such as bridges, as can be seen below.

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York.

Hong Kong must have been a particularly difficult challenge to photograph, with all its tall buildings and mountains.

To see where all the 3D imagery is download our KML file

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Google floods southern California

lun 09-11-2015

In July we noticed that Google had got the altitude wrong for the 3D imagery of the city of Crotone, Italy and it looked like it was under water. They have since fixed it. However, we have just noticed that an area in southern California has a similar problem. Maybe Google felt that some virtual water would help with the recent drought. There are interesting effects that look like levees designed to keep the water out where it meets either 3D imagery or the Salton Sea which does not show the water animation.

The Salton Sea has an interesting origin that you can learn more about in this YouTube video.

We had a look around at other parts of the world that have land below sea level and found only one other place – Death Valley, which is also in California. The water only covers the northern end of Death Valley.

It would appear that Google Earth has an internal map of what is land or sea and does not show the animation for most locations that have land below sea level, but something has gone wrong with it in the locations above.

To see the effect, turn on ‘Water Surface’ in the ‘View’ menu. However, the levee effect remains even with the water surface turned off.

If anyone knows how long this has been in Google Earth please let us know in the comments.

The post Google floods southern California appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Moldova Landsat imagery restored

ven 06-11-2015

In September we noted that Moldova had some unusual imagery provided by Cnes/SPOT Image when viewed from high altitudes. GEB reader S.H. let us know in the comments that the imagery was introduced on August 19th, 2015. It appears that Google has now reverted back to using Landsat imagery as is used for the rest of the world.

Until recently Moldova looked like this:

Now it looks like this:

So what happened? We can’t be sure without talking to someone in Google, but our best guess is that Google updated the ‘background imagery’ for Moldova and made a mistake by including it in the global zoomed out imagery and they have now corrected the mistake.

As we discussed here Google Earth shows Landsat imagery when you view it from high altitudes and as you zoom in, it transitions to higher resolution satellite imagery from different suppliers. Behind that high resolution imagery there is another layer we call the ‘background imagery’ that fills the gaps were no high resolution imagery is available. As we saw in our series on Google Maps maximum zoom background imagery is either Landsat imagery which is very low resolution or imagery from Cnes/Spot Image which is medium resolution. We suspect that Moldova previously had Landsat imagery as its ‘background imagery’ and this was replaced with Cnes/Spot Image imagery which is what it has now.

We also discovered that in neighbouring Romania the names for 2nd Level admin regions (which appear if you have the ‘Borders and Labels’ layer turned on) appear a bit too soon when zooming in making for a very crowded map.

The post Moldova Landsat imagery restored appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Some sights we missed

jeu 05-11-2015

On Monday we had a look at recent imagery in Google Earth. We used the Google Earth plugin to find new imagery. However, either our algorithm is not perfect, or Google has added some more imagery since then because we have found a satellite image that we had missed that shows a major flooding event in Japan.

For more about the event and some photos see this article. Note that a few of the photos are of regions of the river upstream of the area covered in the Google Earth image.

We also came across a mudslide in Myanmar. We could not find a news story about it in particular but there were apparently a lot of mudslides in the region.

And finally there are some images of wild fires in Siberia. They are black and white, but still quite spectacular.

See this article for a NASA image showing the extent of the fires and smoke.

To find the locations above in Google Earth download this KML file.

The post Some sights we missed appeared first on Google Earth Blog.

Catégories: Sites Anglophones

Different coordinate systems in Google Earth

mer 04-11-2015

A GEB reader recently asked us how to use UTM coordinates in Google Earth and we thought it might be a good idea to explore it a bit.

If you go to Tools->Options->3D View and look in the ‘Show Lat/Long’ section there are five different coordinate systems listed and whichever system you select will be what Google Earth uses to display locations, both in the status bar as well as in the properties of placemarks. However, KML files always use decimal degrees so placemarks and other features are actually saved using decimal degrees and converted to and from that for entry and display.

To learn about the different systems and how they work, Wikipedia is a good place to start:

We found that the search function of Google Earth can deal with all the above formats. You do not need to change the options in order to search with a different notation.

When using latitude and longitude always put latitude first. This can lead to confusion when working with KML, which uses the reverse notation. It is quite flexible and you can simply leave spaces rather than degrees, minutes and seconds symbols. A comma between latitude and longitude is also optional. You can also use either positive and negative or add compass directions after the numbers. Positive is North or East, negative is South or West.

The following formats all work:

Decimal Degrees
37.421966° -122.085010°
37.421966 -122.085010
37.421966, -122.085010
37.421966 N, 122.085010 W

Degrees, Minutes, Seconds
37°25’19.1″N, 122°05’06″W
37 25 19.1 N 122 05 06 W
37°25’19.1″, -122°05’06”

Universal Transverse Mercator
10 S 580961.91 4142077.66
10 N 580961.91 4142077.66
(the format shown in the Google Earth status bar does not work: 10 S 580961.91 m N 4142077.66 m E)

Military Grid Reference System

We chose the above location because it was offered as an example below the search box. It turns out to be the Googleplex.

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Catégories: Sites Anglophones