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Google Earth Blog
Last week we pointed out that some of the Google Earth weather layers were out of date. Google fixed the problem soon after, and at about the same time added a tantalizing new layer that just says ‘Coming soon’. This may be timed to coincide with Google Earth’s 10th birthday this coming Sunday, June 28th. According to Wikipedia, Google Earth was first released under the Google brand name on June 28th, 2005, although it was release as Google Earth 3.0 as it was a continuation of a previous product called Keyhole that had been in existence since 2001.
While you wait for the new layer(s) to appear, this would be a good time to go through all the layers that already exist and see if you can find something interesting you may have missed. We have been looking through the layers ourselves and found that although some of them are not being maintained by the data providers the majority of the layers work quite well and have a wealth of useful information.
We also discovered that the roads layer has recently seen an update – we are not sure exactly when. It had previously not been updated for over a year, so we are glad to see this update. Finally, some street names in Livingstone, Zambia, that we added to Google Maps last September are now in Google Earth. Although strangely, a name correction we made in Google Maps has not been carried through. ‘Libala Drive’ is supposed to be ‘Airport Road’ and the correct name is shown in Google Maps.
Last week we had a look at UrtheCast, a satellite imaging company that has just released their first videos captured from the International Space Station.
Today we are looking at another satellite imaging company called BlackSky Global. They have not yet launched any satellites, but plan to launch six satellites in 2016 and have a 60 satellite constellation by 2019. For more details see their press release.
They are not the first company to plan a large constellation of imaging satellites. Last year we talked about a company called Satellite which had very similar plans and launched their first satellite in June 2014. However, there is no sign of any progress from them since then. Skybox Imaging, which is owned by Google, also plans a large fleet and already have two operational satellites.
Most of the above companies have or are planning relatively cheap satellites with a resolution of about 1m and focusing their marketing message on their ability to capture frequent images. Google Earth gets most of its imagery from DigitalGlobe, whose best resolution satellite WorldView-3 has a resolution of 31cm. Google also gets some imagery from Airbus Defence and Space (listed as CNES/Astrium in the copyright information). However, their best satellites seem to be SPOT 6 and 7, with a resolution of 1.5m.
The global image used in Google Earth when zoomed out comes from Landsat 8, which has a resolution of 15m.
The best resolution imagery in Google Earth is aerial imagery. However, many parts of the world only have satellite imagery, and even areas with aerial imagery usually do not have frequent updates and could benefit from a greater availability of satellite imagery. We have been hoping to see Skybox imagery in Google Earth but are not aware of any being featured so far.
With the addition of BlackSky Global, the future of satellite imaging looks good.
BlackSky’s Pathfinder spacecraft, one of its first satellites.