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Why DigitalGlobe Wants Approval for Higher Resolution Imagery; Pressure Mounts Internationally

Saturday, May 24th 2014
By Joe Francica

According to a report by Reuters, DigitalGlobe finance chief Yancey Spruill sees a large untapped market for higher spatial resolution imagery. Nearly a year ago, DigitalGlobe appealed to NOAA to lift the 50cm spatial resolution restriction on its imagery so that it can produce images with a 25cm resolution. Currently, DigitalGlobe collects imagery with greater spatial resolution than 50cm but must resample the raw pixels to the allowable limit.

"There is a market opportunity with a roughly $400 million addressable market that we cannot participate in today because of the regulatory regime of our government," Spruill said.

The pressure is on government regulators to let DigitalGlobe compete in a growing market of satellite imagery from both domestic startups to international providers, some supported with heavy government funding. Yesterday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the H-2A series earth observation system. According to The Asahi Shibum

Using advanced radar technology, the Daichi-2 is expected to contribute significantly to Earth observation sciences, monitor disasters and explore for natural resources.

According to JAXA:

The digital 3D map to be compiled this time has the world's best precision of five meters in spatial resolution with five meters height accuracy that enables us to express land terrain all over the world ... In order to popularize the utilization of the 3D map data, JAXA will also prepare global digital elevation model (DEM) with lower spatial resolution (of about 30 meters under our current plan) to publish it as soon as it is ready. Its use will be free of charge. We expect that data from Japan will become the base map for all global digital 3D maps.

The Daichi-2 satellite has just 5-meter spatial resolution, comparatively low with respect to DigitalGlobe's WorldView-3 satellite which is expected to be able to deliver 25cm accuracy. However, the race to launch more earth observation platforms for a variety of mission objectives is underway (see Directions on the News podcast, April 15).

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