Today is the time when satellite images are becoming more and more available to the public. The trend has been steady for the entire last decade in fact. The growth of this medium is still in progress with much analytical capability in the works to make this valuable data applicable for a wide range of purposes.
Right now, many industries are tapping into this rich vein for insights, revealing major potential for disruptive innovation. Mostly a domain for GIS specialists, free satellite data is actually widely available to anyone keen enough seek it out. Here is our list of the best online resources that you can use for your own analytical needs as of today.
EarthExplorer from USGS
Among its competitors USGS is the oldest collection of free and highly varied GIS data. Everything can be accessed through their EarthExplorer which in itself operates via Google Maps.
Data: EarthExplorer offers 40 years worth of comprehensive satellite imagery that you can use to gain massive insights. All gathered from USGS-NASA and varios NASA remote sensors. This is Terra and Aqua MODIS, ASTER, VIIRS and many other. Within, you will find open source datasets that were formed under collaboration with ISRO and ESA. This is Resourcesat-1 and 2 as well as Sentinel-2.
Also you will find a lot of commercial hi-res sources like IKONOS-2 OrbView-3 and historical SPOT data.
Search: With EarthExplorer you can filter the search results by date, cloud cover percentage and any number of sensors. Preview each tile separately or together with the rest depending on your preference.
One curious thing about EarthExplorer is that you can avail of a feature-based search. It allows you to browse through a lengthy list of all possible functionality and come across very curious items like ancient road or grave mapping. All in addition to the standard Area of Interest options like address, file uploading and many others.
Analysis: Not available. Possible only via third-party software.
Export: Image download from USGS is available via the Bulk Download Application. You can also download many data products including Level-1,2,3, Natural color imagery, Thermal imagery and many more depending on the sensor.
EarthExplorer is the most affluent source of free satellite imagery. It boasts a large number of features. The UI is not the most user-friendly though, and there is some learning learning curve to getting used to the application.
LandViewer from EOS
LandViewer is a cutting-edge source for satellite data and AI-powered analytics. It is part of EOS Earth Observing System, one of the key official distributors for high-resolution satellite images.
Data: LV spans a huge variety of publically available libraries. These are CBERS-4, Sentinel-1, 2, MODIS aerial NAIP, Landsat-7, 8 as well as 4, 5 for historical images. Among the datasets are SPOT 5-7, Pleiades-1, Kompsat-2, 3, 3A, SuperView-1. Top spatial resolution goes as far as 40 cm per pixel.
With all the above, you can get hold of a comprehensive list of satellite data and purchase high-resolution close-ups.
Search: Images are easy to find once you set the Area of Interest via a huge array of options together with file upload. Select the sensor type and choose the timeframe. Cloud cover percentage, sun elevation and AOI coverage percentage are all available as your filter search terms.
Additionally, you can save your Area of Interest and subscribe to new scenes to easily get what you need in the future.
You may easily download processed image, band combination or calculated index.
Analysis: LandViewer instantly enables analytical visualization features of your image which makes it unique among many other platforms. At your disposal are more than 20 default band combinations and indexes, including: NDVI, NBR SAVI. You may create your own with custom index builder, clustering, time series analysis and use many more tools to adapt your images to your needs.
Export: As far as the data export goes, LV has a lot in store. You can download any satellite image with a wide variety of bands applied or Natural color. It can be full or cropped in JPEG, KMZ or GeoTIFF.
LandViewer is a highly versatile source of satellite images for GIS specialists. It manages to combine a huge list of analytical features into a neat package for major space-powered insights.
EO Browser and Sentinel Playground from Sentinel Hub
Data: In EO Browser you will get multiple medium and low res image roundups. These include the unabridged collections from all Sentinel missions, Landsat 5, 6, 7 and 8, Envisat, Meris, MODIS, GIBS and Proba-V.
Sentinel Playground, on the other hand, can be used for satellite imagery mosaic of Earth gained from Sentinel-2, Landsat 8, DEM and MODIS.
Search: In terms of search, both EO Browser and Sentinel Playground boast an intuitive set of features. Everything you will need for comprehensive image search. One major limitation that we should note is that some datasets are limited to rendering at a certain scale. With Landsat it only starts after a 20 km zoom.
Analysis: EO Browser can offer a significant freedom in terms of applied analytics. For single image you may apply at least 8 band combinations and even add your own. Time series are available, but not all images used can be visualized.
Export: Sentinel Playground allows you to download JPEG individual sections of the Earth mozaic. EO Browser let’s export hi-res images in a wider set of formats including JPEG, GeoTIFF and KMZ, bands and band combos.
EO Browser is an easy to get around. It will grant you access to a good selection of open source medium-resolution space data with much capability for visualization. Sentinel Playground is a great addition for a more casual Earth imagery mosaic that you can share.
Copernicus Open Access Hub
Yet another great collection of Sentinel imagery,Copernicus Open Access Hub has its own unique take on the matter.
Data: Formerly known as a “Sentinels Scientific Data Hub”, this is the place for the newest images from all Sentinels: Sentinel-1 radar imagery, optical multispectral imagery from Sentinel-2 as well as Sentinel-3 land products for environmental analysis together with atmosphere and air quality data in Sentinel-5P.
Search: The search interface is very minimalistic, and yet it doesn’t take the user experience to the pinnacle of ease. File upload through your AOI is not available. Coordinates search works via its own internal database of operators. Cloud cover filter works by the means of a 0 to 5 scale operator. It’s of great use but inconvenient for a broader scope of specialists.
Analysis: Not available. The images can only be previewed in the “Quicklook” with detailed metadata.
Export: All images are available for download by being added into the Cart.
The platform is a good source of free Sentinel images, although not the best place to get the Sentinel-1 and 2 data, considering the widely limited capabilities and user experience.
INPE Image Catalog from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research
One of great sources for satellite imagery is INPE, the Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research offering its own robust image catalog. In their image catalog you will find many collections for land cover, water resources monitoring, vegetation and meteorological data.
Data: INPE Image Catalog is awesome when it comes to South America, Central America and Africa without covering other world regions. This is where you can avail of the data from the following missions: Aqua, DEIMOS, UK-DMC 2, Terra, Suomi-NPP, ResourceSat, Landsat-8 conducted by U.S., UK and India as well as CBERS-4 by Brazil and China.
For those looking for some extra data on CBERS-2, Landsat 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 their INPE cadastre is always out there.
Analysis: Not available.
Export: Download is conducted via an FTP link sent to your email. Just add your images to the cart along with your address.
INPE Image Catalog is a great place to get your imagery if you need South, Central America and Africa. It cannot help you with world-wide collection, but, on the above, you will enjoy a good user experience with plentiful data that can be processed in any other online or desktop environment.
Satellite imagery is no longer a luxury, exclusive to the world leading intelligence agencies. Anyone can get it for free and make it useful. All of the above should give you plentiful means to obtain relevant insights from space data and make knowledgeable decisions, wherever you apply it.
Give them a try and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it!