In the past few years, the number of space-based Earth observation sensors, their resolution, the number of bands they have, and their refresh rate have exploded, especially with the launch of swarms of smallsats, cubesats, and nanosats. The latest Earth observation satellite is China’s Gaofen 8 (“gao fen” means “high resolution”), launched on June 26. It is optimized to provide country surveying, disaster response, agriculture mapping, city planning, land ownership marking, and road network planning.
The vast amounts of Earth-observation data now available provide new opportunities to solve challenging environmental, natural resource, and global security problems. However, efficiently extracting meaningful information from imagery and sensor data requires automating much of the image analysis and feature extraction and providing access to the data and the analysis on the cloud. Most providers of satellite imagery are now offering their customers end-to-end solutions, so that they are not just selling pixels, but information. “As new imagery companies come into the market, they and the traditional providers must diversify their product and service offerings to compete for market share”, says Dennis Jones, president of the Earth Observation Industry Alliance.
In December 2010, GeoEye acquired SPADAC, a geospatial predictive analytics company, turning it into a wholly owned subsidiary named GeoEye Analytics. It provided geospatial predictive analytic solutions to more than 40 customers in the defense, intelligence, and homeland security markets by combining satellite imagery with intelligence data to try to anticipate the future locations of adverse events and opposing forces based on their pattern of prior locations. After DigitalGlobe acquired GeoEye in 2013, GeoEye Analytics became DigitalGlobe Analytic Services [www.digitalglobe.com/products/analytic-services], which brings together the company’s massive image archive with a cross-disciplinary team.