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Google Earth Blog
Last year, soon after we created our map of 3D areas, we had fun using the KML to show you the areas covered by country and US state. Now that we have released a timeline version of our KML file it is is a good idea to revisit the concept and measure areas by release date rather than by country.
Although Google Earth Pro is able to measure the area of a KML polygon, you can only do this one polygon at a time. So to get the area of multiple polygons it is better to use online tools that offer the service. We used this tool from Zonum Solutions.
After manipulating the data a bit we were able to draw the following chart showing the progress Google is making over time.
As of this week, Google has captured in 3D approximately 315,000 sq km, which, incidentally, is almost exactly the same area as Poland, the newest country to receive 3D imagery.
Given that the total area of land on the earth is approximately 148,940,000 sq km, it would take Google close to a thousand years to finish the whole earth at the current rate. This explains why they are sticking to highly populated areas. So what we really need is an estimate of the area of all the cities in the world. If any of our readers knows of a KML file with global population densities done using KML regions and not an image overlay, please let us know in the comments.
One of the latest 3D imagery finds is Santos, Brazil. It is worth having a look at, as it clearly demonstrates the benefits of an automated system of generating 3D. Modelling that one city by hand would be practically impossible. To fly there in Google Earth use this KML file.
Google has not updated its imagery updates map since December 17th last year. It has, nevertheless been pushing out satellite imagery at a fairly rapid pace. We can only speculate as to why it is not updating the maps. Perhaps its staff have been too busy with all the reorganization that seems to be going on at Google. Or perhaps the maps are hosted on Google Maps Engine, which has recently been deprecated.
This post is an appeal to Google to resume releasing its imagery updates maps. If the updates are now too frequent to do a map for each update, then a cumulative map once a month would be much appreciated.
Quite a lot of people enjoy looking through new imagery to see what can be found, and the imagery update maps make it a lot easier. A few sharp-eyed GEB readers manage to find new imagery, either by the date or by comparing Google Maps to Google Earth or to historical imagery, as the various systems tend to get updated in a staggered fashion. However, the updates are so numerous that it is not really worth trying to find them all and list them here.
Occasionally GEB readers let us know about interesting finds, such as the Costa Concordia we showed you in January. And thank you to GEB reader ‘Munden’ who recently let us know about a brush fire he spotted in new imagery in the south of Mississippi. The only copyright notice for the location is Google’s, and based on the high resolution, the imagery is likely aerial imagery. So is Google now capturing its own aerial imagery?
A brush fire in Mississippi. To view in Google Earth use this KML file.
To view in Google Earth use this KML file.
When Street View started it was named ‘Street View’ because it was captured using cameras mounted on the roof of a car driving along streets. Since then Google has been shrinking the equipment, initially fitting it on a trike and later making it small enough to carry on your back known as the Street View trekker.
Click the image to explore in Google Maps’ Street View, or download this KML to find the location in Google Earth. The blue Street View outlines do not show in Google Earth, but if you drag the yellow man directly onto the pin, it should still to take you to the zip line images.
Navigation can be a little difficult and the view directly downwards is not good at all. The technique usually used on roads to erase the Street View car by using imagery from the next spot along the road doesn’t work so well in the air.
Last week DigitalGlobe announced that they are now selling the new 30cm imagery to customers. Until recently it was actually illegal for US companies to sell satellite imagery at this resolution. As we have noted in the past, aerial imagery is typically of similar or better resolution and is not subject to that restriction, but for global coverage and bulk image capturing satellites work out much more cost effective.
DigitalGlobe has available for download six sample images. For your convenience we have put them into Google Earth image overlays which you can view with this KML file. For best results turn off the ‘3D Buildings’ layer.
A few notes on the sample images:
- The image from Pudong, Shanghai, China is actually already in Google Earth and was captured on December 18, 2014.
The default imagery for Auckland, New Zealand is slightly better quality than the DigitalGlobe image, but that is because it is aerial imagery that was captured in 2012 as part of the Auckland 3D imagery.
The image from Kalgoorlie Mine, Australia, is of noticeably better quality than the default imagery in Google Earth which is from 2013.
The default imagery in Google Earth for Sao Paulo, Brazil is actually newer than the sample image although not quite as good quality as the sample.
Left: 30cm sample image dated September 10, 2014. Right: Default Google Earth image from October 17, 2014.
Another interesting story from DigitalGlobe is that on January 27, 2015 they retired their imaging satellite QuickBird after 13 years in orbit. For the full story and to see QuickBird’s last image see the DigitalGlobe blog article.
We have looked at MyReadingMapped many times in the past. It has recently changed its url from myreadingmapped.blogspot.com, to myreadingmapped.com.
A few of the recent maps to be found on the site that we have not covered in the past are:
- A map of the Nicaragua Grand Canal that enables users to zoom in close on the rivers and valleys involved in terrain and satellite mode in order to determine for themselves the impact on the ecology. It is related to this Scientific American story.
A map of the Privatization Boondoggles of Local, State and Federal Government that traces the costly boondoggles of privatization.
A map of U.S. Industrialization (1640-1880) that traces US industrialization in four important time periods, prior to the American Revolution when it was dependent on water power up to the War of 1812 with the introduction of refrigeration, the railroad and the wide spread use of steam power, up to the American Civil War, and as a result of the Civil War. You can even turn on and off layers that indicated the union states and confederate states to understand the economic differences and the impact of industrialization on the Civil War.
A map of Farms by Type. This documentary, in the form of a Google Map, provides examples of 50 different types of farms around the world.
A map of Freshwater Biomes. This documentary, in the form of a Google Map, provides examples of Freshwater Biomes.
A map documenting the battles of the War of 1812 – 1815 between the United States and Great Britain.
A map documenting the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.
All the maps are displayed on the site using Google’s My Maps, and you can easily view them in Google Earth by downloading them as KML. Just click the ‘share’ button found at the top of the map and select ‘Download KML’.
The map of the proposed Nicaragua Grand Canal is our favourite. We had heard about it in the news and it is nice to be able to explore the locations in Google Earth.
We have spent a lot of this month exploring the features of the now free Google Earth Pro.
Google has continued to add to 3D imagery, with 48 additions so far in February. Oddly though, they have also recently been removing a number of areas. This has happened in the past and usually it is only for a short while, but occasionally it has been a long time before the imagery has been replaced. Apparently Nashville has been removed and added again a number of times. We have not yet made a decision on how to handle this in our KML file. Suggestions are welcome.
Google has continued to update satellite imagery but have not updated their map since December 17th. We hope this is just temporary.
We also had a look at the Monster Milktruck ported to Cesium and were quite impressed with the performance. Cesium is certainly looking to be a viable replacement for some uses of the deprecated Google Earth plugin.
We celebrated Valentine’s Day with a romantic trip to Venice which received new 3D imagery this month.
The regionate tool is a way to make large datasets easier to work with by limiting the number of items displayed in Google Earth at any given time. How it does this is explained in this YouTube video from the Google Earth help page:
We decided to try it out using a KML file that we found on the Geo-Wiki site that we looked at yesterday.
The file we tested with, the Geo-Wiki validations dataset from the downloads page, contains just over 58,000 features. When we opened it in Google Earth it made the application sluggish and it was quite difficult to navigate around to view the data. We used the regionate tool, and it split the KML into 6,589 separate files all linked together from a master KML file. All the data was still there, but you don’t see all the features until you zoom in, making Google Earth much more responsive. However, the regionation means that you loose the overall picture and it is no longer easy to see which areas have large clusters of points. In addition, although it would be possible to distribute the regionated files as a zip file, there appears to be no easy way to distribute the regionated data as a single file that can be loaded directly in Google Earth. So although this feature would clearly be very useful and practically necessary for very large data sets, it may not be the most suitable solution in all cases.
Before regionation, Google Earth was sluggish and the map is cluttered.
After regionation, a lot lest clutter, and Google Earth works smoothly, but large scale patterns are lost.
Although the site has an option to try it out as a guest we couldn’t get that to work, but registration is free so we went ahead and did that. Once registered, the site uses the Google Earth plugin to display a variety of maps, mostly relating to global agriculture patterns. There is a wealth of information, such as where various crops are grown and livestock production patterns. The Google Earth plugin is also used as a means to gather feedback from users, who can select an area and submit comments relating to the maps.
An interesting map of cropland field sizes.
The site includes a game called cropland capture, which shows you a series of satellite images or photos and asks you to identify whether the image includes crop land. The results are then used to create a global map of land under cultivation. There is also a more advanced version that enables you to give more detailed information about land use using the Google Earth plugin, but it seems they only make it available during competitions. To get an idea of how it works see the YouTube video below:
Last month Google removed the US$399 a year price tag from Google Earth Pro and released it for free. There is no longer any need to sign up for a licence key, simply login with your email address and the key GEPFREE. Recently, we have been having a look at some of the features unique to Google Earth Pro. Today we will have a look at the measuring tools in Google Earth Pro.
There are two ways to get measurements in Google Earth Pro. If you look at the properties of a path or polygon, there is a ‘measurements’ tab which displays length for paths or perimeter and area for polygons.
The area and perimeter of the newly released 3D along the southern coast of Portugal.
In addition, the ‘ruler’ tool has several tabs not present in the standard version of Google Earth. They allow you to measure the radius and area of circles, measure the length of 3D paths, and measure the area and perimeter of 3D polygons.
The Plaza de Toros de La Ribera in Logroño, Spain, has an area of nearly 10,000 square metres.
Using Google Earth Pro we could easily measure the height of the spires on Cologne Cathedral to be approximately 155m. Wikipedia says they are approximately 157m.
Measuring the approximate area of glass used on one of the facets of WTC 1 is easy.
In December last year, Google updated the 3D imagery in New York and San Francisco with newer, better quality imagery.
Since then Google has updated a number of other cities. Thank you to GEB reader Ryan for letting us know about Louisville (KY) and Munich (Germany). We don’t always notice the update, especially if, as in the case of Munich, the update is completely contained within the area covered by the older imagery. Other times, it is more obvious, such as Buffalo (NY) and Pittsburg (PA), where the new imagery extended beyond the old boundary.
We generally haven’t bothered keeping track of these changes in our 3D imagery KML, as it would often be difficult to identify the borders of the new imagery or know when it was added, and Google does not put dates on the 3D imagery. However, we did try tracing out the border of the Munich imagery so that you can see the extent of the update and compare it with the older imagery. To see the outline in Google Earth download the KML file here.
Google usually leaves an overlap between new and old imagery, and a curious effect of this is that sometimes different imagery can be seen, depending on the viewing altitude. So for example, in Louisville (KY) because the imagery was taken at different times of year, once when the trees were bare and once when they had all their leaves, the difference is quite striking. See the location in Google Earth using this KML.
The newer imagery tends to be characterized by richer colours, as can be seen in this border between the two, with older imagery to the left and newer imagery on the right.
Google has released some Street View imagery in Greenland. Thank you to GEB reader Chris for bringing this to our attention. There is also significant expansion to the coverage of Bangladesh that we looked at earlier this month.
The new Greenland imagery includes sections captured by boat
This is the Greenland Street View car.
A map of additions to Street View since we last looked
We recently came across this interesting article. It appears that the Dubai Municipality plans to create a 3D map of the whole emirate. It is intended primarily for government use, but it will also be made available to the general public. It will be captured using octocopter drones.
Dubai apparently has not allowed Google to take aerial photos of the city, let alone map it in 3D. We don’t know the reason for this, but it could be a desire to censor certain locations, as will be done in the Dubai 3D project. However, Google has censored 3D imagery in Greece, either by making the 3D imagery very blocky, as in the case of Cephalonia International Airport, or simply leaving out the location, as is the case with Mykonos Island National Airport. So is this likely to happen in other major cities around the world, where Google or other mapping companies are prevented from capturing imagery?
View from the 154th floor of the Burj Dubai as seen in Street View.
FlightRadar24 uses a number of different data sources to track aircraft. One of the main sources, ADS-B, requires special equipment on board the aircraft as well as detectors on the ground. Only about 65% of commercial passenger aircraft have the necessary equipment, so do not expect to see all air traffic on the map. To learn more about how it works, see their ‘How it works’ page.
The main interface uses Google Maps. To see the Google Earth plugin in action, select an aircraft, then click the ‘3D’ button on the left hand side of the screen below the picture of the aircraft. The ‘3D’ button opens ‘Cockpit View’, which uses the Google Earth plugin to show the view from the aircraft. It includes a basic instrument panel and will also display the locations of any other aircraft in the vicinity. It can also show a model aircraft, although it is a generic gray model that does not correspond to the specific aircraft you are tracking.
Coming in to land, Vancouver, Canada.
Most of the time, aircraft will be flying too high to see much of Google Earth’s 3D imagery. Even if you pick an aircraft that is landing, you may find it is flying too fast to load all the 3D imagery before you have gone past. We also discovered that the positioning is not always accurate, as the aircraft we tracked missed the runway by over a hundred metres.
You will need to have the Google Earth plugin installed, a browser that supports it, and in most cases, you will have to allow the plugin to run on the flightradar24.com site.
Several times we experienced glitches with the graphics, we think because the view is constantly moving and the Google Earth plugin can’t keep up. Reloading the page usually fixed it, however.
The Monster Milktruck is a demo of a driving simulator using the Google Earth plugin. It was created by Google in 2008 as part of the Google Earth API sample code to help developers get started with creating applications for the Google Earth plugin.
We recently had a look at it as part of our Google Earth plugin showcase and we pointed out that the original version is broken due to a change in the URL to the Sketchup Warehouse model it uses. However, we were able to fix the bugs and you can try it out here.
You can try it out here.
Exploring San Francisco in the Monster Milktruck Cesium edition.
We found the performance to be quite impressive. It has global satellite imagery and terrain data based on Bing maps. It does lack the 3D mesh that we are used to seeing in Google Earth, but even Google Earth is far from achieving global 3D coverage. We did encounter a bug when teleporting to New York. It placed our milk truck under the surface of the globe and we could not get out without teleporting somewhere else. But we believe that is a bug in the Monster Milktruck code and not a problem with Cesium itself. Cesium uses WebGl and we found that it did not work on a 6 year old laptop. This could possibly be resolved by updating the graphics card drivers, but keep in mind that Cesium may not work with older hardware.
A couple of weeks ago Frank wrote about changes in Google’s Google Maps and Google Earth organization. Since then, we have also noted that Google is working with Esri, to assist Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine customers to transition to Esri products. So what does all this mean? Google is generally close-lipped about its future plans, so we can only speculate based on its recent public actions.
It would appear that Google may be considering getting out of the high end Geographic Information System (GIS) business. Google Earth Enterprise is a product that allows customers to have their own Google Earth servers and host their own imagery and layers etc on their own servers. It appears from the Esri website that Google is encouraging its customers to move to other software products. Google Earth Pro, an intermediate product in the GIS space was also recently made available for free. In the 2D Maps space, Google recently deprecated Google Maps Engine which amongst other uses, can be thought of as Google’s enterprise level Maps product.
The latest version of Google Earth on Android, uses a completely new graphics model. It also appears to share the street database with Google Maps. In addition, Google Earth for Android does not show the old type of user created 3D models. It only displays the newer automatically generated 3D mesh. Because of the new graphics model, and presumably new street data model, it is likely that the supporting servers have changed as well. This means the Android version is incompatible with the older Google Earth servers, which explains why the Android version no longer includes the option to log into a Google Earth Enterprise servers.
We are hoping that Google will release a new version of Google Earth for the desktop similar to the Android version but with beefed up features. But if this happens it would likely be incompatible with Google Earth Enterprise databases. This would leave Google with the choice of upgrading Google Earth Enterprise too, or keeping the products separate. It appears from recent moves that Google may decide to drop Google Earth Enterprise, although Google usually have a fairly long deprecation policy so they won’t just leave Enterprise customers in the lurch.
Google shows no sign of slowing down when it comes to gathering satellite imagery and releasing 3D imagery with nearly 100 additions to the 3D imagery already in 2015. So Google clearly still sees a future for an earth in 3D.
A map of locations that have received 3D imagery so far this year. To find them in Google Earth, use our KML file
You could also take a virtual romantic vacation by touring Venice in Google Earth, as it has just received new 3D imagery. We do not recommend taking a Gondola ride as Google’s 3D does not handle water very well and the canals are quite bumpy.
Venice, Italy. Be sure to try turning on ‘Historical Imagery’ to compare the new 3D mesh with the older style 3D building models.
While researching this post we were made aware of how many sights in Google Earth are moments in time as well as space.
This marriage proposal in a field that we looked at in 2006 is now part of the suburbs.
We couldn’t even find the Marriage proposal in Street View from this post. It is right outside the GooglePlex and has over 50 different dates of Street View, but as far as we could tell, the one with the marriage proposal in is missing.
The Thematic Mapping Api was released in 2008, less than a month after the release of the Google Earth plugin and Earth Atlas 3D was released soon after. The Thematic Mapping Api was designed to make it much easier to get started with using the Google Earth plugin for displaying statistics. Earth Atlas 3D demonstrates its use, and has some interesting maps, albeit rather out dated. It is clearly a brilliant toolkit, but don’t rush out and build your apps on it, as the Google Earth plugin has been deprecated and is set to stop working in December this year.
So go ahead and try it out. You will need a browser that supports the Google Earth plugin, and you will need to give it permission to run on the site. Also, avoid the ‘latest ice coverage’ map, as the URL to the KML has changed and it causes the Google Earth plugin to crash.
We liked the use of a cell phone model for displaying mobile phone subscriber stats.
Google recently made Google Earth Pro available for free. As a result, we have been having a look at some of the premium features of Google Earth Pro. So far we have looked at the movie maker, Viewshed and map making tools. Today we are looking at how to bulk import addresses into Google Earth Pro.
The bulk address import feature in Google Earth Pro allows you to import a list of addresses from a csv file and it will then geocode the addresses (look up the latitude and longitude) and create appropriate Placemarks in Google Earth Pro.
The relevant Google Earth Pro help page explains the import process. The help page incorrectly states that it only works in seven specified countries. We tried it with an address in Zambia and it geolocated it correctly. This is however dependent on Google Maps having the correct address information so don’t expect it to work flawlessly. You can also import extra columns that are added to the placemarks’ popup window, and can also be used to set various properties such as the name of the placemark, the icon and the altitude. The import mechanism also offers the option to use latitude and longitude in your import data rather than addresses.
We see this feature being quite useful for businesses with customer or supplier databases.
Google Maps turned 10 on Sunday, February 8, 2015. For a brief history of Google Maps, see Google’s Lat Long blog post, which features a nicely done graphical timeline. Its interesting that they include the purchase of Skybox Imaging. We have high hopes for the future of Skybox, but have not yet seen much impact from it on either Google Maps or Google Earth. Google Earth was first released under that name in 2005, but had previously existed as ‘EarthViewer 3D’ under Keyhole Inc. since 2001. The Lat Long blog’s timeline disagrees with Wikipedia about the exact date of the release of Google Earth.
Google Maps’ Earth View.
Over the years Google Earth and Google Maps have shared and exchanged features to the point where Google Maps now has ‘Earth View’, which is heading towards a Google Earth equivalent in a browser. It is however not yet a Google Earth replacement.
The last major addition of Street View imagery to a new location was the addition of Argentina and an expansion of the Malaysian imagery in September last year.
Now Google has added Street View to Bangladesh. Thank you to GEB reader Martin for letting us know about this. The coverage is currently only in two cities, Chittagong and Dhaka. They are, however, Bangladesh’s two largest cities. According to Wikipedia Dhaka has a population of over 12 million people and is the 9th largest city in the world.
Bangladesh Street View coverage.
Some pretty impressive electrical wiring in Dhaka.See it in Street View here.
There have not been many other additions to Street View since September last year. We took a screen shot of the Street View map on September 26th, 2014 and have compared it to a screen shot from February 6th, 2015 and found both additions to Street View and apparently subtractions, too!
Additions to Street View (red areas).
Some Street View appears to have been been removed (red areas), but we suspect it is just variation in how Google displays street view coverage at that zoom level.