People usually assume it’s going to be extremely expensive. Additionally, people are well aware that some satellite imagery is available for free. So what is the truth?
The truth is that you can purchase submeter resolution imagery ranging from about 6 pounds to 25 pounds per square kilometer, based on the resolution and provider. However, there’s also a substantial amount of free and open-source satellite imagery and data.
A vast amount of data related to climate conditions from the past 15 to 20 years is available. In Europe, we have the Copernicus program, specifically the Sentinel constellation of satellites, which captures optical and SAR imagery every 5 to 12 days worldwide.
The bottom line is that both types of imagery, free and paid, exist, but the cost is not as sky-high as people often imagine. Some analytics providers concentrate solely on free data, while others like Spottitt utilize both free and open-source options.
The key distinction between free and commercial imagery is that, generally, free imagery and data come at a lower resolution. The free satellite imagery from Sentinel has a resolution of 10 meters, while commercial imagery offers sub-meter resolutions, even as fine as 30 centimeters.
Another significant difference between open source and commercial options is that with commercial imagery, you can determine when and what you want to capture. On the other hand, with open source, imagery and data are captured on a fixed cycle, every week or every 12 days.
Another valuable concept to grasp pertains to industry terminology.
Archive commercial imagery or data is the type of imagery or data that has been captured for others and archived after a certain period.
High-resolution constellations have been operational for up to 12 years now, resulting in an extensive archive of historical imagery. For certain applications, you may prefer to explore the existing archive of images taken in the past. There’s no need to request or capture new data or imagery when existing resources can meet your requirements.
Archive commercial imagery is more cost-effective than new or tasked (another industry term) imagery. Depending on the provider, archive imagery and data generally cost around half as much as tasked imagery.
Depending on the provider or constellation, an image can transition to an archived state and consequently become cheaper anywhere from 3 days after its capture to 3 months later.
It’s also important to understand that you don’t actually own the satellite image or data. What you’re actually paying for is the license to use it. This concept can be intricate for people.
When you engage with various satellite analytics providers or service providers who derive analyses and insights from satellite imagery, inquire whether they are authorized resellers of the data and whether they can transfer the license for the original image and output analytics to you as an end-user. This enables you to retain the imagery and data in your databases, empowering you to utilize it for both existing and new projects.
Spottitt is an authorised satellite image reseller and analytics provider.