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Video: Small satellites offer daily high-resolution satellite images

How about inexpensive, shoe box sized satellites, which offer high resolution satellite images of every farm and field on earth every day?
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Planet Labs. Photo credit: René Koerhuis

Instead of regular satellite images once every 5 days - that is, if it’s not cloudy above your farm at the moment the satellite is passing - American scale-up company Planet Labs made it its mission to image the entire earth’s landmass every day. The company started out from a garage in Cupertino (California, USA) in 2010 and was founded by a team of ex-NASA scientists.

Planet Labs satellite images

Currently, multiple (online) precision farming platforms, including those from The Climate Corporation, Scottish Kore Solutions and Bayer’s Xarvio, use images from Planet Labs satellites to provide daily insights in to, amongst others, crop growth, coverage and health.

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Planet Labs. Photo credit: René Koerhuis

Compared to regular multimillion satellites, Planet Labs managed to build shoe box sized satellites (called doves), supposedly costing just €20,000 each.

Plus, the tiny satellites don’t need to be brought into space by separate and expensive rocket launches. Instead, ISS supply rockets bring the satellites to the ISS after which they are deployed, by simply pushing them into space from the International Space Station (ISS).

Weather is not an issue for Planet Labs

In 2015 for example, 42 satellites were deployed in 5 launches. All in all, Planet has launched over 300 satellites and currently operates 200 medium and high resolution satellites, making it possible to supply daily high-resolution images of every square meter on earth.

For growers, the advantages of the concept are clear. Don’t worry if it’s cloudy today, Planet Labs’ satellites will pass over your farm and fields again tomorrow. So no more waiting for 5, 10 or sometimes even 15 days for usable satellite imagery. The company is expanding rapidly and although headquartered in San Francisco nowadays, it also has offices in amongst others Alberta, Amsterdam and Berlin.