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Say Cheese! Satellite-Imaging Startup Will Photograph Earth Daily

Oct 28, 2016 05:54 AM EDT
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A new startup company will photograph the Earth every day and share images to the public to promote global change transparency.

After two years in the business, the satellite-imaging startup Planet is now capturing images of over 50 million square kilometers of the Earth every day, which is about one-tenth of the whole world's surface area or more than a third of its 149 square kilometers of land, Quartz reports. In September 2016 alone, the company has already photographed 91 percent of the planet's landmass.

During an address to the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on Sept. 27, 2015, Will Marshall, co-founder and CEO of the startup, said that they aim to make global change visible, accessible, and actionable for everyone.

Using its network of tiny, inexpensive satellites hovering 400 or 500 kilometers above the Earth. Planet captures images of the Earth. The company makes these images available to the public by offering the basic access for free, while premium accounts are for data of higher quantity and quality.

"We miniaturized these little satellites, and we put them up [in space] in large fleets in order to image the planet, with their little cameras going around the Earth," Marshall said during the Bloomberg Technology Conference. "We've put up 133 of these satellites. It's the largest fleet of satellites doing Earth imaging in history, and the goal is to image every single point on the Earth's surface every day."

The satellites are about the size of a loaf of bread, which could capture about 9.8 feet of resolution per pixel and can be refined to as precise as tracking every tree on the planet, Live Science reports. Collectively, they move around the Earth like the head of a scanner, capturing images of the planet as it rotates.

Planet has already shared its data with organizations: Amnesty International used the imagery to track refugee camps in Syria, Descartes Lab uses the data to develop machine-learning technology to be used to forecast land-use trends for farmers, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project also found illegal mining and deforestation in Peru through the imagery, and Orbital Insight used the data to provide an analysis of seaports to their investors.

Just recently, the company signed a deal with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency - the federal government's source of geospatial intelligence.

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