Daily Satellite Imagery for Planet Earth
In this blog, we have written about the revolution occurring in the remote sensing world, centered on inexpensive and crowdsourced remote sensing. As described in this TED talk from Planet Labs’ Will Marshall, Planet Labs has launched small satellites of the dimensions 10 x 10 x 30 cm, weighing 4 kg, which can take images at 10 times higher resolution than conventional large satellites. Early in 2014, the International Space Station launched 28 of these small satellites. They plan to launch more than 100 that will image the Earth from a single orbital plane as the planet rotates beneath it. Will refers to this system as a “line scanner for the planet.”
While our book and this blog discuss geotechnologies from a technical point of view, we also highlight the societal implications of these innovations. Planet Labs’ work fits in well with these themes, because they are not only technically innovative, but their goal is to democratize remote sensing data. They are asking: “If you had access to imagery for the whole planet on a daily basis, what would you do with it?” Every point on the planet will be imaged every day with their platform.
And while the partnerships and avenues of dissemination data are still being worked out, this and similar efforts in the remote sensing world will surely impact data availability, crowdsourcing, copyright, privacy, decision-making, and other topics important to science, education, and society, in the months and years ahead.