US government OKs sharper satellite images

A long-standing restriction has been lifted to usher in better quality online mapping

The U.S. government has lifted a long-standing restriction that meant companies like Google and Microsoft didn't have access to the most accurate pictures taken by imaging satellites.

Until this week, satellite operators like DigitalGlobe were prevented by law from selling images to foreign or commercial organizations in which features smaller than 50 centimeters were visible. The restriction was meant to ensure that foreign powers didn't get access to satellite images that were too good.

But now that's changed. DigitalGlobe said it has received approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce to sell sharper images to its clients.

That immediately unlocks pictures from its GeoEye-1 satellite, with a resolution of 41 centimeters, and Worldview-2 satellite, at 46 centimeters, but much better pictures will soon be available.

The company's Worldview-3 satellite can see features as small as 31 centimeters and is due for launch in mid-August from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The government has said DigitalGlobe can sell high-resolution images from that satellite six months after it enters operation, which would make them available sometime in the first half of 2015.

The sharper images will mean more than just better quality online satellite pictures. Companies like Google and Nokia automatically process such images to help build accurate online maps and there is a host of uses outside of the Internet industry including agriculture, disaster relief, mining, transportation and civil engineering.

The announcement came in the same week that Google said it would buy satellite imaging start-up SkyBox Imaging for $500 million.

SkyBox says its SkySat satellite can capture images at "sub-meter" resolution, which probably means they are not as fine as DigitalGlobe's pictures.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesGoogleMapsU.S. Department of CommerceSkybox

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?