A First Look at 10cm Satellite Imagery
Our approved NOAA license was the spotlight of our last blog post, which indeed was not only a huge milestone for our team but for the industry. As we are tracking to be the first organization from the private sector to operate imaging satellites that collect 10 cm resolution imagery, we are equally looking forward to being the first organization to take on and support the pent-up, and ever-growing, demand for ultra-high-resolution satellite imagery. After speaking with hundreds of potential customers this past year from all over the world and representing every major industry and known problem set, the asks are clear:
- Higher resolution imagery
- Lower latency
- Standard, transparent pricing
Today we are going to focus on the first point: ultra-high-resolution imagery.
Higher resolution pixels will make many of the existing Earth Observation use cases easier and will add an additional level of detail, and provide the capability for new analytics and use cases based on both our visible and thermal imagery. Machine learning and analytical use cases will see significant improvements in their output based on the increased quality of training data. We've had discussions with users across many industries to make sure that our data and systems will be well suited to their specific needs.
The number of use cases is astronomical, even within individual verticals, so our goal is simple, to provide the best data to our customers allowing them to catalyze market growth, spur new applications. Satellite imagery has the advantage of being global, allowing us to help our users anywhere on the planet.
Albedo Imagery Specifications
With the aim of being as transparent as possible, we have always shared our preliminary specifications on our visible imagery (and Thermal) imagery on our website and will continue to do so. Click the link to view our imagery product specifications.
If you want to see how these specifications translate to actual imagery, keep reading on.
Albedo Simulated 10cm Imagery
As there are no commercial imaging satellites capable of Albedo's 10 cm resolution yet on-orbit, we must rely upon a simulation process for demonstrating the quality of our expected imagery. In addition to its own in-house simulation capability, Albedo has partnered with a validated provider of high-fidelity, physics-based imagery simulations to produce two very large representative imagery scenes of Albedo imagery.
The imagery starts with panchromatic plus 4 color aerial imagery that was collected at a native GSD of 3.8 cm, which enables accurate removal of aerial sensor properties and resampling to the Albedo 10 cm resolution and camera properties.
The simulated Albedo imagery includes all properties of the optical payload, including telescope obscuration and pupil mask, optical throughput/reflectivity, wavefront error (from all causes including design residual, surface figure error, alignment error, and on-orbit shifts), detector sampling, detector diffusion, stray light, haze, all detector signal and noise properties (including quantum efficiency, spectral filter properties, read noise, dark noise, shot noise), and satellite image motion.
With this simulated raw satellite data, we then have applied a conservative representation of our image processing chain steps to approximate what we expect final delivered Albedo imagery will look like.
The results are stunning.
This is just one of a number of scenes that we’ve been looking at to build up our use cases to show the potential value of this data. In this one residential scene, we are able to pull out a number of use cases.
- Car Counting and Patterns of Life - not only can we easily count vehicles (which requires 30cm resolution today for sufficient accuracy with ML), but the additional resolution also allows us to classify types of vehicles. We can count trucks, convertibles, and see details on the vehicles such as sunroofs, racing stripes, and if trucks have anything in their bed. In some cases, we may even be able to identify particular vehicles, which hasn’t been possible up to this point.
- Property Insurance and Solar - In this scene, we are able to clearly see details on roofs that haven’t been available before. In the top right of the image, there is clearly a roof that looks to have some discoloration and may indicate a damaged roof. Other features of interest are also clearly visible in these images, such as pools, trampolines, potential Additional Dwelling Units, potential solar installations, and other details which could be of interest. These metrics along with many others will be valuable for property insurance analytics and residential solar installations, among many other uses.
- Powerlines and Utilities - in the top right of the image you can see power lines running nearby this neighborhood. Our resolution will improve the accuracy of models that identify vegetation risk growing into powerlines, which is one of the main causes of wildfires and power outages (California’s second largest wildfire was caused by a tree falling on a power line). Utilities would be able to monitor their right of ways for vegetation, new construction, and any number of features that could indicate future troubles.
- Mapping and Autonomous Vehicles - 10 cm imagery can clearly resolve and enable the understanding of road markings such as turn lanes, passing lanes, crosswalks, and parking spaces. Not only does this resolution make it possible to use AI/ML to identify these features, but Albedo will also be able to provide some pretty stellar geolocational accuracy (5 meter CE90 and potentially better) to help with absolute accuracy for these use cases.
Improving the industries that improve our lives
Albedo aims to help imagery users across the world create a more transparent and efficient planet. With regulations and technical limitations put to bed, our imagery will be available and accessible to all commercial and government users for next-gen problem-solving. The industries below will have new opportunities to significantly improve lives around the world, just to call out a few:
If you’re working in these or any other industry that you think could benefit from our visible imagery, let us know, we’d love to talk and make sure we’re building the right access pattens for your business needs. Please reach out at email@example.com, or sign up for our newsletter with the link at the bottom of the page!
If you’re in the Austin, TX area for SXSW 2022, there will be some great space panels, topics and discussions. We would also encourage you to visit our panel discussion with other industry leaders, and meet our founders!