A satellite launch that is scheduled for today is intended to pave the way for taking images that are four times more detailed than those currently found on Google Maps.
The US-based DigitalGlobe will be launching the satellite and it is believed that Google will be very interested in procuring the images it takes in an effort to improve their service. The company also provides images to NASA and the US Government, so they have a definite pedigree when it comes to delivering a quality product.
The launch comes following a US decision to repeal legal restrictions that limited how detailed a satellite image could be if it was to be used commercially. With the restrictions removed, company’s such as DigitalGlobe are able to take photos that capture 25cm of square ground per pixel, rather than the previous limit of 50cm. It also means that the satellite imagery on sites such as Google Maps will improve accordingly should they choose to purchase these images.
In turn this will also mean that Google Maps users will be able to zoom into images and see them in much higher detail, though this does raise privacy concerns in some quarters.
The satellite, which is named WorldView-3 should has a mission time of just over seven years but it is believed it could stay operational for as many as 20 years, though by that point it is entirely possible that it will have been replaced. It can photograph an astonishing 680,000 square kilometres every single day, all in a spectacular high resolution.
DigitalGlobe chief executive Jeffrey Tarr commented “It means we’ll be able to solve new kinds of problems, and as a result, grow our business.”
The relaxation of the previously mentioned restrictions has led to Google announcing that it will also be looking at collecting its own satellite imagery in the future, which would make it a direct competitor to its current providers. To aid in this task the company has recently purchased Skybox Imaging for $500million and has already launched two of a planned 24 satellites via Russian rockets.
All in all the future looks bright for Google Maps and its satellite imagery. However, with further lobbying of political groups currently underway to allow for further relaxation of restrictions on satellite imagery, many are raising concerns that it could go to far and end up infringing on the privacy of individuals.
It’s a thin rope that Google are treading, especially given their recent run-ins with a number of groups regarding privacy concerns. It will be extremely interesting to see how this develops and how it affects Google’s services in the coming years.