Google get their imagery from a wide variety of sources, and due to there being so many factors involved, it is impossible to predict when and where they will do updates. We have covered this a number of times on our blog, most recently in April. But before we start talking about imagery updates, it is important to realize that the satellite imagery displayed in Google Earth by default is often not the most recent imagery available. Why this is the case is explained here. So always be sure to check Historical Imagery to make sure that there isn’t already something more recent available. Instructions on how to use the Historical Imagery feature in Google Earth can be found here. It is important to note that the dates displayed on the imagery are not always accurate. The reasons for this are explained here.
Satellite or aerial imagery
If you are a city, state or country that has collected aerial imagery at your own expense, you own the rights to the imagery, and would like Google to put it into Google Earth, there is a pretty good chance that asking Google to do so will meet with a positive response. This is provided that the imagery is of good quality, is properly georeferenced etc. But for the rest of us, if we want more recent satellite or aerial imagery we typically just have to wait until either a satellite gets a good image of our area or some commercial project takes aerial imagery of our area, and Google either purchases it or enters some agreement whereby they can use the imagery. Capturing aerial imagery is still very expensive and such projects are typically done on a city-sized area or larger. Hopefully, the advances in drone technology will soon mean that the costs of capturing aerial imagery will come down dramatically.
If what you want is a satellite or aerial image of a given location and you are willing to pay for it, then it may be possible for you to purchase the imagery or even contract a company to capture imagery. Satellite imagery providers will often have imagery that is more recent than that found in Google Earth, but be warned that it will typically contain partial cloud cover. If you want satellite imagery, a list of suppliers for Digital Globe imagery can be found here. Another satellite imagery company is Airbus Defense and Space. And then there is Skybox Imaging, which is owned by Google.
The availability of aerial imagery providers will depend on your location, so if aerial imagery is required, we recommend an internet search for providers in your area. The resolution of aerial imagery is typically better than that of satellite imagery and is less likely to have problems with cloud cover, as the aircraft can either fly below the clouds or pick a day with clear skies. However, contracting someone to capture aerial imagery is typically significantly more expensive than satellite imagery.
What about Street View?
Street View imagery is gradually being expanded to much of the globe, and for many places, existing coverage is being continuously updated. They do give some information as to where they will are currently driving, which can be found here.
If you want Street View where you are, you have a number of options available. If you are a small to medium sized business, you can get Business View and hire a photographer from Google’s network of trusted photographers to come and photograph your business and have it uploaded into Street View. For large venues, such as a university, stadium, mall, or park, you can actually request a visit from the Street View team, and if you are lucky, they will come and photograph your venue for you. If you’re a tourism board, non-profit, university, research organization or other third party who can gain access and help collect imagery of hard to reach places, you can apply to borrow the Trekker via the Trekker Loan Program.
If all you want is a few panoramas, then you can take them yourself and upload them via Google Views. The easiest way to capture imagery for Google Views is using the smart phone app PhotoSphere, available for both Android and iOS. When you capture Photo Spheres they become part of Street View and are actually given preference by Google over images taken by their Street View vehicles.
A Photo Sphere taken by GEB writer Mickey Mellen is now part of Street View. To read more about when and where he captured it, see his post here