New Satellite Imagery Galore Coming

GeoEye First ImageThose of you regularly reading this blog, already know there is a wave of new satellite imagery coming to Google Earth (and other mapping tools) in the coming months. Both DigitalGlobe and GeoEye have launched new satellites in the last year, and more satellites are going up soon. Google has an exclusive contract for online use from the new GeoEye satellite. And, the first image from the GeoEye satellite has just been released, of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. This image probably won’t find its way into Google Earth for several weeks, but they wanted to show off the new image capability. Click on the thumbnail to the right to see a larger version. The new GeoEye satellite can capture up to 0.41 meters per pixel resolution, but because of US laws can only release up to 0.5 m/pixel imagery to Google (the best stuff is for the intelligence agencies and military). The imagery is essentially black and white, but they process the photos with color from other imagery to add color. You can see this imagery is very nice. Story on new GeoEye imagery via CNET.
Google for the past three years had a similar exclusive contract with DigitalGlobe – where only Google could use DigitalGlobe imagery online. However, their renewed contract was no longer exclusive, and Microsoft has announced they will now be using DigitalGlobe imagery on Virtual Earth. This makes it possible for Microsoft to have much more global imagery than they currently have in Virtual Earth (although, nothing Google doesn’t already have). While we’re talking about Microsoft, I just found out they also added stars in the background of Virtual Earth 3D. Google Earth has had real stars from the beginning, but the new Virtual Earth ones have color and size (based on brightness) – which I think is better looking than Google Earth’s stars (and something I’ve suggested to Google for years).

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. The resolution is much better, it would be nice to see the 0.41 m/pixel stuff hey?

  2. Nice imagery, indeed, but it doesn’t look as ‘hi res’ as some places (like Las Vegas, for example).
    Is that because:
    1. The new ‘first light’ image of Kutztown is not at it’s highest resolution?
    2. The imagery from Las Vegas isn’t from a satellite so therefore is not restricted to the .5m/pix limit? *
    3. The Las Vegas imagery isn’t that high, but because you can ‘over-zoom’ in the GMaps interface, cars, etc. look bigger?
    4. Or is it something else?
    * Please note: Point 2 is a total guess. I don’t know whether or not the Vegas imagery is, in fact, arial vs. sat. Nor do I know if the .5m/pix limit is a restriction on just satellite imagery (I assume it is).
    Thanks for clarification.

  3. @Eric Lund: Your number 2 guess is correct. Las Vegas (and many other places) have better than .5 meter resolution because they are aerial photos (from a plane, not from space). There is no restriction on the resolution really but what Google gets its hands on. Check out the MegaFlyover imagery under the “Gallery->National Geographic” layer for some really cool high res shots in Africa.

  4. How does colour processing the b/w imagery with older imagery work? After all the cars in the car park wouldn’t be in the same place anymore.

  5. Ick of the East says

    A log cabin built by my ancestor in the early 1700s was restored and moved to this campus.
    I’m not sure where exactly, or if it is visible in that photo.
    Just imagine what he would think of his distant descendant looking at his house nearly 300 years later on a photograph taken from outer space.
    He saw some things in his 103 years (1680-1783), but I still think he would be amused.

  6. Hopefully GE will use the new satellite imagery only to supplement aerial photography of good quality higher resolution.
    There is some really excellent aerial coverage – good enough to follow the tram lines in Munich or count the swans on the millponds in Emsworth UK – and it would be a shame to lose nice little things like that, as well as more serious stuff.

  7. question: the .5m/px resolution limit applies to the U.S.? or worldwide??? and if the servers are hosted in europe, and the SAT footage is not from a U.S. owned company???
    i think the .5m limit is stupid since the aerial footage is not limited… in my opinion the law is obsolete…

  8. and some reports say that google has a max. of 6 year old footage on google maps/earth… that’s not true… the SAT footage for heidelberg, germany is approx. 9 years old!!! 9 years….!!!! the neighboring city of mannheim has aerial super high resolution footage online that is approx. 1-1.5 years old… since most tourists that visit germany drop by in heidelberg i think it’s a shame that google puts more emphasis on population than on tourism…

  9. Smokeonit, don’t cry. At least you have fairly high resolution images about Heidelberg, even if it’s a bit old. What can those of us say who only have the basic very bad resolution imagery about our neightborhood (a fairly big city with about 100,000 inhabitants is only a few pixel, nothing can really be seen), and there is little chance for an update.
    I hope the new geoeye satellite will speed up the imagery updates a bit in the “neglected” regions of the earth too.

  10. If you think the coverage of Heidelberg is poor – and how much has changed in the last nine years in the parts the tourists visit – search on Peterhead, a town of 20,000 people in Scotland…
    … coverage nil, completly obscured by cloud.

  11. chris & bergamot: mannheim got aerial footage like 12 months ago, super high resolution… it stops right @ the border with heidelberg… there’s no doubt that the company took made the aerial footage also covers heidelberg… so my question is why google does mannheim/ludwigshafen, and leaves out heidelberg…???
    the metropolitan area is called rhein-neckar, 2.4 million people live here, and consists of mannheim, heidelberg and ludwigshafen. 3 german states are part of this metro area, baden-w├╝rttemberg, hessen (hesse) and rheinland-pfalz (rhineland-palatina)… google has an active intererest covering this region fully… there’s a lot of business here, after all it’s one of the richest region, and most populated in germany (#7 of all metro regions in germany). and on top heidelberg is well known all over the world…

  12. and google says they don’t have footage in GE older than 6 years… which i can contradict easily with the heidelberg example… which is 8-9 years old…

  13. Smokeonit – I understand that Mannheim and Heidelberg are separate administrative districts (Kreise), and perhps each is the owner of the aireal photography of its city area, and perhaps Heodelberg is asking for payment and/or kicensing terms which GE will not meet.
    However, I know the area well as a regular visitor since around 1970, and the better the images the happier I am when I look at familiar places and changes.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.