Seeing a Better World™

Bringing DigitalGlobe’s Insight Solutions to Life

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

Todd M. Bacastow
Director, Insight Product Management

Today’s users of geospatial information expect more than a map. They expect insight that allows them to better understand a place and a situation on the ground to enable informed decisions. As the use of geo-data applications expands, web-based mapping technologies offer a means for a larger audience of users to easily access and understand geospatial intelligence.

DigitalGlobe’s Insight team has a proven track record of delivering innovative geospatial solutions that help our customers serve their mission critical needs. We are now utilizing web mapping platforms, such as MapBox, to enhance our ability to deliver these solutions by creating customized sites – making our analytics products more accessible, interactive and informative.

To build an interactive web map, we start with our own imagery and analytics. We utilize open source tools like TileMill to stylize this content and JavaScript libraries based on Leaflet that allow us to create a rasterized tile stack enabling fast, compelling web maps. This map is delivered from the MapBox tile server to a web page to drive additional interactive map elements, such as navigation buttons, which are created using the jQuery JavaScript library.

Without requiring knowledge of traditional GIS software, users can easily interact with data, toggle imagery and visualize various data layers. DigitalGlobe’s Human Landscape data sets, which are map layers consisting of points, lines, and polygons that characterize the human geography of a place, are well-suited as interactive layers displayed over our imagery for added context.

We recently developed a site depicting DigitalGlobe’s analysis in response to Typhoon Haiyan. The site starts with an introductory series of photographs to set the stage, followed by an interactive web map that brings users from the country level into the city of Tacloban. Tacloban is one of the Philippine cities that experienced some of the most severe devastation from Typhoon Haiyan. This site tells the story of Typhoon Haiyan through DigitalGlobe imagery, crowdsourcing, and human geography layers. Such analysis helps explain the situation on the ground and for similar disasters, could be used to help inform relief planning and disaster mitigation efforts. In this example, the value of DigitalGlobe information layers is demonstrated in identifying suitable roads for routing relief supplies in a disaster zone.


As users zoom into Tacloban, high-resolution imagery delivered as part of our FirstLook service is displayed to contrast the city before & after the storm. Users can toggle on/off layers such as Human Landscape points of interest including hospital locations, roads, and the airport. Additionally, a road layer damage assessment is available that outlines locations of damaged bridges that were tagged by users of DigitalGlobe’s Tomnod crowdsourcing platform and show damaged infrastructure to identity suitable routes to deliver supplies.

We’re excited about the potential that web mapping technologies such as MapBox offer to enable the visualization of our analytic solutions and unique information layers. DigitalGlobe plans to develop more examples in the coming weeks and we look forward to sharing them with you via our blog.

DigitalGlobe Launches Crowdsourcing Campaign to Help Save Hawaii’s Native Forests

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, DigitalGlobe today activated its Tomnod crowdsourcing platform to help preserve Hawaii’s remaining native forests, the areas that remain mostly untouched by civilization. Invasive weeds, such as the Australian Tree Fern and African Tulip Tree, are aggressively spreading throughout Hawaii’s high-elevation rainforests. In fact, invasive species have contributed to the destruction of more than 50 percent of Hawaii’s native forests, according to The Nature Conservancy. DigitalGlobe has a unique ability to monitor change around the world, and this campaign will allow us to do just that.

Starting with the island of Kauai, we want to pinpoint the location of some of the worst invasive weeds, but we need your help! If you would like to volunteer your time to support this mission, please visit DigitalGlobe’s Tomnod platform to join other eco-volunteers in combing through aerial images of Kauai to tag two different species of invasive weeds, specifically:

Australian Tree Fern

Partial Australian Tree Fern (these are juveniles or occluded ones)

African Tulip Tree

The native forest is Hawaii’s source for fresh water, but weeds are growing over the existing forests, which scientists believe dramatically reduces the amount of fresh water that is available across the islands. Invasive species have already done enough damage to Hawaii’s native forests, animals and overall economy. Here are the facts:

  • More than 80 percent of Hawaii’s endangered plants are threatened by invasive species
  • 72 percent of all extinct species in the U.S.are from Hawaii
  • Half of the native Hawaiian bird species are already extinct, and 40 percent of the remaining native birds are on the endangered species list
  • Hawaii’s tourism industry, which brings $20 billion a year to the state and its people, could be severely impacted by invasive species

This project uses Conservancy-provided high resolution aerial photography of Kauai’s remote rainforests. By pinpointing the location of each weed, the Conservancy will be able to focus its efforts on each one, and identify the leading edge of the weeds’ spread. Targeting weeds in the regions of the forest where they are most prevalent  will slow further spread and push back that leading edge, protecting the 27 percent of native forest that remains on Kauai. Hawaii as a state stretches over more than 16,000 square kilometers, and the island of Kauai is more than 1,400 square kilometers, so the crowd can play a significant role in targeting these weeds before they spread any further. Although this project focuses on just 3,000 acres, if it is successful, the Conservancy has thousands more acres — and images — to analyze.

DigitalGlobe’s crowdsourcing platform has been involved in the response and recovery efforts for numerous natural and man-made disasters, but this is the first campaign launched specifically for environmental conservations efforts. We’re looking forward to activating our platform for similar efforts in support of our purpose of Seeing a Better World™.

U.S. Satellite Resolution Restrictions – LIFTED!

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

Regulatory Change Will Help Our Customers See the Earth More clearly!

With the exciting news announced earlier this morning, relaxing a U.S. Government licensing restriction on the resolution of commercial imagery, DigitalGlobe can now enable improved decision making for our customers by providing more complete information through a clearer picture of our changing planet.

Having the highest available resolution is extremely important because it directly correlates with the amount of information you can extract from an image. Once an image is collected, new information can’t be added through software or processing tricks. You can make a sharp image blurry, but not the other way around. And that’s why imagery from DigitalGlobe is superior to any commercial product available today. We deliver the greatest amount of information by collecting the highest resolution imagery in the market.

The Big Picture
Our current constellation of five high resolution satellites include two that can collect better than .50m images today and can now be commercially sold at their best native resolution. We are substantially expanding our constellation by adding two more high resolution satellites. WorldView-3 is set to launch on August 13 or 14 will be permitted to sell .25m panchromatic and 1.0m multispectral GSD six months after it is operational and GeoEye-2, is currently being stored on the ground and is currently expected to launch when DigitalGlobe secures threshold customer demand for assured access to very high resolution satellite minutes.

Additionally, we will be moving our Worldview-1 satellite into an afternoon orbit, improving the diversity of our constellation by collecting images over a specific location on Earth in the morning with any of our four satellites and then again in the afternoon with WorldView-1. This temporal diversity provides unparalleled access to imagery and information that is unavailable through any other provider.

What does this mean for specific industries?
Better resolution will benefit DigitalGlobe’s customers in several market segments and will enable improved decision-making that will save our customers lives, resources and time. In the past, collecting sub-50 cm resolution required chartering and flying aircraft. This is expensive, time-consuming, and can be limited by denied airspace or dangerous conditions. Now customers will have global access to these hard to reach places at higher resolutions.

In the civil government vertical, sub-half-meter imagery provides more accurate feature detection and identification. This is particularly important for more accurate and automated land use/land cover mapping, as well as change detection applications for natural resources management, urban planning, and emergency response mapping.

For the Location Based Services (LBS) industry the new license will allow customers and portal users to see crisper, clearer mapping images, allowing for better feature recognition for automobile and personal navigation, fleet management, and nautical navigation applications.

Additional applications such as oil and gas, mining and exploration, post-event assessment and humanitarian monitoring are just some of the sectors that will be able to take advantage of our higher resolution products. From more accurate monitoring of pipeline assets to higher levels of detail and accuracy in volumetric calculations, our enhanced imagery completeness will help you do your job more efficiently and effectively.

This is a significant leap forward for the satellite industry, enabling better information and insight from imagery and ushering a new era in geospatial big data. Better resolution means more information and better decisions moving DigitalGlobe another step forward toward our Purpose of Seeing a Better World™.