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High-flying satellites - not UAVs - may be first to offer actionable in-season crop imagery beginning this year.
Two tiny Planet Labs satellites float above an International Space Station solar panel after being launched in January. The satellites are part of a planned 100-plus satellite constellation that will be able capture daily images of the entire earth.
Satshot rides new satellite wave
Satshot’s 2015 weekly satellite imagery service will be built around the launch of more than 100 new-generation satellites scheduled over the next year by Planet Labs, a Silicon Valley newcomer to the satellite industry. The new satellites – each about the size of a thermos bottle – will be able to capture images of every spot on the earth every day, according to Planet Labs.
“Once these satellites are launched, we might amass 30, 40, 50 images of a field every season,” says Lanny Faleide, president of Agri ImaGIS Technologies, which operates Satshot. “You start putting those images together in an animation and you might really start seeing something. The additional frequency will allow us to use more analysis tools. We will shift from being reactive to proactive in how we use satellite imagery.”
The Planet Labs satellites – which are minuscule compared to traditional multi-ton satellites – will capture images at a 3 to 5 meter resolution. The first 28-satellite “flock” of “dove” mini-satellites was launched from the International Space Station in January. The next 100, which Plant Labs says is the largest constellation of satellites in world history, will be launched in large groups from rockets over the next year.
As images are available with greater frequency, Faleide expects use of satellite imagery to grow “exponentially.” In addition to farmer demand, growth will be spurred in part by increased use from input suppliers, as well as machinery companies, which are working to enable tractor monitors to access satellite imagery, he adds.
For 2014, Satshot is offering 5-meter resolution imagery every three weeks, relying primarily on five identical RapidEye satellites, which were launched in 2008. Satshot is the primary distributor of RapidEye imagery in North America.
“Five-meter resolution has become the sweet spot for agricultural imagery,” says Faleide. “You can see so many more details compared to 30-meter images from Landsat and other satellites.”
Unlike GEOSYS’s ag retail distribution model, Satshot sells imagery to all comers. Images are available on-line. The Satshot web site provides an imagery database, analysis tools and a smartphone-based alert system that lets users know when a new image is available.
For 2014 images, the company is charging 50 cents/acre/image date for 5 meter-resolution images, including access to all on-line tools. Satellite images at the 30-meter resolution are free. For information, visit satshot.com.