Another Step Towards Live Satellite Maps

The next step in the race towards “live” maps seems to be public satellite, or ISS, based near realtime HD video. The footage below is from Skybox Imaging, a company that has just started offering customers 90-second video of any point on Earth from its SkySat-1 satellite. In this clip, the SkyBox video sits on top of a static layer of satellite imagery and is overlaid by a map layer from Mapbox, based on OpenStreetMap.

Another company, Planet Labs, has just launched its own fleet of 28 imaging microsatellites from the International Space Station and hopes to offer scientists and the public the chance to track changes on the Earth’s surface with much higher frequency than ever before. These satellites will only provide still images though.

Yet another company, Urthecast, recently successfully deployed their cameras to the International Space Station with a planned beta launch of their partly free service later this year. First images of the medium resolution camera are already available.

Also NASA seems to be willing to ride the wave by putting up four off the shelf HD cameras outside the ISS for the HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing) project. The cameras will be insulated but not shielded against radiation. One of the projects goals is to find out what camera copes best with the radiation.

[Update] Recently found this more comprehensive list of players in this race on ieee.spectrum.

2D / 3D High Res 360 Degree Camera

Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute is currently working on a complete end-to-end system for the real-time acquisition and projection of immersive, high-resolution video panoramas. The approach is based on a flexible, mirror-based multi-camera rig that uses multiple HD cameras to capture very high-resolution video panoramas. These videos are then exhibited with a flexible multi-projection system in order to provide the viewers with the immersive feeling of watching the event on-site from the very best seat.


  • Real-time acquisition and projection of high resolution video panoramas with large field-of-view (FOV),
  • Capturing with flexible rig for up to five HD cameras with FOV of 150 degrees,
  • Full circle rig for up to 12 HD cameras with 360 degree capturing capability,
  • Exhibition with flexible, high-resolution multi-projection system,
  • Based on CineCard PCI-card that supports up to four projectors per board (and up to 16 projectors per PC),
  • Unlimited cascading in both vertical and horizontal direction,
  • Immersive viewing experience that feels like “being there”.