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“High resolution imageries will fundamentally change the business of mapping”

Herb Satterlee, President and CEO, DigitalGlobe Inc. on QuickBird launch, high resolution imageries and its prospects

Herb Satterlee
[email protected] 

  • We congratulate you for the successful launch of QuickBird Imaging Satellite. What was the initial market response to this launch?

    We have been overwhelmed with the positive response we have received about our launch of QuickBird. The customers are excited to start receiving QuickBird imagery products.

  • Which industry application will benefit from QuickBird?

    Many. Specifically anything to do with mapping, which just about all GIS and remote sensing activities can be grouped into mapping. Having more commercial satellites in operations means the availability of up-to-date earth imagery. Longer term that availability will mean more competition in quality and price.

  • We would like to know about other products of DigitalGlobe.

    During our initial operations DigitalGlobe will offer QuickBird imagery products in a Basic, Standard, and Orthorectified. We will add other imagery and information products, as our system is able to support more products and more users.

  • It is felt that High Resolution imageries has high cost associated with it. How affordable will QuickBird imageries be?

    High-resolution imagery is competitive with other aerial providers and we plan to compete with the current pricing. We plan to release our pricing early next year.

  • Do you propose any specific distribution strategy for QuickBird imageries for Asia?

    Yes, our exclusive Master Distributor for Asia is Hitachi Software Engineering Co., Ltd. They will handle all of our business in the region.

  • Which contrast in market behaviour with respect to use of high-resolution satellite imagery between North America and Asia is noticeable?

    Yes, I see a fairly significant difference in how the markets behave and what products are important to the markets between Asia and North America. Primarily driven by the density of population and the density in buildings. If you look in Asia, any of the major cities whether it be Tokyo or Hong Kong, the cities are very densely paced with a lot of tall buildings and very small streets. You need very high resolution looking straight down in getting any value out of remote sense data.

    Whereas, U.S. cities tend to have an urban core that’s quite small and the vast majority of the city is spread out with one and two story buildings. So high-resolution satellite imaginary is extremely effective for looking at all the details of the infrastructure, where in Asia, in the major cites, it’s not as quite as effective.

  • Do you foresee huge demand for high-resolution imageries over the next 5 or 10 years?

    Yes, the demand is much greater than current satellites can manage. As new markets open to using satellite imagery the demand will only grow. We expect to grow in size of our system and satellites significantly over the next 5-10 years. We also hope to prove to governments that in many cases it is more cost effective to utilize our imagery than to develop and launch an imaging satellite. That in combination to penetrating commercial markets will grow the demand for the future.

  • Will the high-resolution imageries influence national mapping policies?

    I believe our industry will fundamentally change in the ways governments around the world map their countries. For the first time ever they will have available at reseasonably low costs, very high resolution detailed imagery of their whole country. It will be available for easy update on a quarterly/semi annual basis. So it’s going to fundamentally change the business of mapping in every country of the world.

  • In the changing geo-political scenario of the world in the background of war in Afghanistan, what are the anticipated implications?

    The biggest is shutter control. We can be restricted to not image sensitive areas based on national security. Longer term, many international commercial imagers may face the same restrictions and/or requested to not make sensitive imagery publicly available during a crisis. This is a new industry and many of the potential issues need to be worked out through day-to-day operations.

  • What are the future plans of DigitalGlobe with respect to high-resolution imageries?

    We have always planned a constellation of satellites. We will look at higher resolution, more spectral information, and potentially other sensors types. We will spend the next year starting initial operations and listening to customers, as they will dictate what we develop and launch in the coming years.

  • Do you feel Remote Sensing and GIS will ever come into the mainstream of IT sector like RDBMS or ERP?

    Yes, as people understand the utility of the information and RS/GIS industries develop products more focused on consumer needs, we will see our technologies in mainstream activities. With GPS and navigation, the trend is starting. People are starting to become spatially aware and in the long term, RS/GIS technology will be incorporated into daily routines.

Mr. Herb Satterlee joined EarthWatch in June 1998 as its Chief Executive Officer and President. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors. From 1995 to 1998, Herb served as President of RESOURCE21 LLC, a Denver based remote sensing information products company, where Herb led the development of aircraft derived imagery information products for the agriculture industry in preparation for the 2001 launch of the company’s earth observing satellite. Previously, Herb spent 19 years with The Boeing Company, holding senior management positions.