Petabytes of imagery

Last year we made a rough estimate of the size of the Google Earth database. Our best guess was about 3 petabytes.

Satellite imaging company Planet has just released some information about the size of their imagery database. It currently stands at 7+ Petabytes with 7+ Terabytes being added daily. And this is before the data starts flowing from the 88 new satellites it recently launched. Read more on the Planet Blog.

There are two other major satellite imagery suppliers, DigitalGlobe and CNES/Astrium. We expect that their archives are still larger than Planet’s as they have been operating for much longer. However, Planet now owns the largest fleet of satellites in the world and will presumably eventually have the largest imagery database. A number of countries have their own imaging satellites both for military intelligence and government planning. There are also various weather satellites that typically capture very low resolution imagery, but on a regular basis (every few minutes in some cases).

According to Google the Landsat archive consists of around 1.3 petabytes of data and the Copernicus imagery is around half a petabyte.

Google also gathers aerial imagery, some of which is processed into 3D imagery. This is higher resolution than satellite imagery, but gathered much less frequently. Many countries also have aerial imagery programmes such as the National Agriculture Imagery Program in the US, and there are also private companies that gather aerial imagery for commercial use. It is probable that many countries have archives of aerial photography that have never been digitized.

Due to the lack of information about all the different imagery out there it is impossible to accurately estimate its total size, but our guess is it exceeds 100 Petabytes.

Do any of our readers know the sizes of any particular imagery collections?

Animation of the seasons created by NASA using Lansat imagery.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.


  1. Grerg Moore says:

    Just thinks in ten years your computer will most likely hap a one petabytes.hard drive.

  2. Windsday says:

    Wanna see some REALLY old imagery? Try this out!,+OR+97351/@44.7696973,-123.1449745,15.44z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x54c0101f4a125c11:0x5630795249735710!8m2!3d44.76972!4d-123.14944 Buena Vista Oregon

    Drive on the Buena Vista Road S to the ferry and it even has the old ferry before the major upgrade in 2012 which in a few years the upgrade will need an upgrade.

    Here is pictures of the old Buena Vista Ferry on this forum.

  3. Windsday says:

    I forgot to mention the street view images are from fall of 2006!

Leave a Reply