Seeing a Better World™

Revealing the Hidden World with Shortwave Infrared (SWIR) Imagery

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

“Smoke disappears and fire hotspots become clearly visible”

WorldView-3, the newest addition to the DigitalGlobe constellation, will enable our customers to see the world in new ways. Not only does it offer the highest resolution in the industry, as you saw in our first imagery blog post, but the satellite also carries a shortwave infrared (SWIR) sensor, built by Exelis, that will unlock information and insight in new ways.

One of the amazing things that SWIR enables is the ability to see through the dense smoke of an active fire to the ground beneath, as well as locating the flame front and hot spots in the fire. We used WorldView-3 to image a forest fire burning at the Happy Camp complex in California’s Klamath National Forest last week. The image on the left is what you see in the visible part of the spectrum, which is what a standard commercial imaging satellite would see. The smoke completely obscures the ground.

Move the slider to see the image on the right, and uncover what can be seen with SWIR imagery: the smoke disappears, and the hot spots in the fire become clearly visible. Both of these are overview images that show the full extent of the fire and are not at full resolution. The SWIR image is a “false color” composite made from three of the eight SWIR bands (bands 6, 3, and 1) that coincidentally give an orange color to the fire.


Here is a further zoom around the burn area:

The SWIR bands penetrate smoke to differing degrees. SWIR band 8 has the best smoke penetration; here is a zoomed in shot of the fire line in which no smoke is visible:

But it gets even better. Not only does SWIR see through smoke and detect hot spots, but it can even give an estimate of where the fire is burning the hottest. The last image is a relative temperature “heat map” calculated by looking at all eight SWIR spectral bands (colors) carried on WorldView-3, showing where the fire is most intense.

We are looking forward to providing this new capability to firefighters and emergency responders around the globe as we help them to save lives and resources – yet another example of how DigitalGlobe fulfills its purpose of Seeing a Better World™.

Watch this space for more examples of how WorldView-3 sees the world clearly and in new ways!

WorldView-3: First Images!

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

On August 13, 2014, DigitalGlobe launched WorldView-3 into orbit. On August 19, a mere six days after launch, our team completed commissioning  the satellite bus and opened the door on the main telescope to begin observing our changing planet. And on August 21, we  completed our focusing and achieved Initial Operational Capability (“IOC”) on the entire suite of WorldView-3’s 27 super-spectral bands.

Jeff Tarr, Chief Executive Officer, said “We are delighted that even in the early stages of calibration and commissioning WorldView-3 is revealing new insights that will enable customers to address some of the most pressing global challenges. WorldView-3 performance is exceeding our expectations and is a great step forward in helping our customers make critical decisions with confidence as they save lives, resources and time.”

We are pleased to share several WorldView-3 image examples from our collection of Madrid Spain, and highlight a variety of use cases for existing and new DigitalGlobe customers.  Because of the regulatory restrictions, we can’t yet display the 30 cm native resolution data, so we’re sharing imagery resampled to 40 cm which is available to download below.

Click the image below to download referenced examples on our Slideshare page 

UPDATED 8/29/13
You can also browse the large scene of the Madrid imagery below along with some extra examples here:
We recommend using the following browsers: Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

As shown in our WorldView-3 slide examples, customers can more easily determine the type of vehicle (cars, trucks, sedans, mini vans) and its speed and direction, which is valuable for a range of industry vertical customers. With 30 cm super-spectral imagery, quantitative assessments of the state of highway networks — including surface wear — can provide valuable maintenance planning information to national, state, and local governments.

In our second example, WorldView-3 offers the improved ability to distinguish different types of aircraft as well as their equipment and features. Assessing vehicle type, state of activity, condition and maintenance are valuable to governments and other civil aviation stakeholders.

Highly precise images of our changing planet are important for decision makers managing Earth’s natural resources. With WorldView-3, DigitalGlobe can automatically distinguish different colors, textures and measure change over time which is important for the energy sector, conservationists, and governments. Our Short Wave Infra-Red (SWIR) sensor will multiply the value of WorldView-3  imagery by enabling the detection of specific mineral content and species of vegetation through signatures not identifiable with the naked eye.

WorldView-3 can also more accurately monitor the rate of development and investment at a regional or global scale. This includes the rate of construction as well as finer details like building materials, roof-top reflectance, road networks and population density, which is valuable to governments, industry and location based service customers. In one example image, individual shipping containers can easily be counted and measured which is valuable information for monitoring economic activity and trends at various marine ports, airports, rail yards and other logistics hubs.

We are beyond thrilled by the clarity and quality of the imagery that we are sharing today. We thank our partners at Ball Aerospace and Exelis for building such a terrific satellite, and to the Lockheed Martin and ULA teams for putting it on orbit safely.

We look forward to sharing more imagery and examples of WorldView-3 over the coming weeks. Leave us a comment and let us know what you’d like to see from WorldView-3 and ideas for helping us move toward our purpose of Seeing a Better World™.

Note: DigitalGlobe formally notified the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of WorldView-3’s IOC, which means that beginning on February 21, 2015, we will able to deliver 30 cm imagery to all of our customers. In the meantime, we will make 40 cm panchromatic and 1.6 m multispectral data available to our customers when WorldView-3 completes its validation and testing. Data from the satellite’s new shortwave infrared (SWIR) sensor will also be available to customers, however the resolution of this data will be restricted to 7.5 m while NOAA is conducting a six-month study of the capability.

WorldView-3: Have you seen this GIF?

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

In a view only DigitalGlobe could manage with multiple satellites in our constellation, WorldView-1 caught this sequence of images of the WorldView-3 Atlas V launch vehicle as it launched from Vandenberg AFB in California last Wednesday. The rocket was really moving; by the time of the last frame, WorldView-3 was traveling at just over 1,000 mph at an altitude of 49,000 feet. WorldView-1 shot these while moving at 17,000 mph at an altitude of 307 miles above the ground, at a distance of between 500 and 750 miles from the rocket.

As we sent WorldView-3 up to begin capturing more images of the earth, we’re proud that WorldView-1 was able to witness the “birth” of its newest sibling.

Last Friday, we were thrilled to have Time.com be the first to share the news of DigitalGlobe’s sequence of images turned to a GIF, thanks Time!

Updated 8/21/2014

In addition to WorldView-1, which enabled us to capture a view of WorldView-3’s Atlas V launch vehicle from above as it climbed up through the atmosphere, we also had WorldView-2 looking at the launch from a greater distance (about 2000 miles) and a more oblique angle. We wanted to share this image that show the launch of WorldView-3 from the side, as it climbed up through 84,000 feet, where it was traveling at almost 1700 mph.