At this moment in history, there are more satellites photographing Earth from orbit than just about anyone knows what to do with. Planet, Inc., has more than 150 orbiting cameras, each the size of a shoebox. DigitalGlobe has five dump-truck-sized sensors. And more startups are planning to launch their own.
What should we do with all that imagery? How can we search it and process it? Descartes Labs, a startup that uses machine learning to identify crop health and other economic indicators in satellite imagery, has created a tool to better index and surf through it. They call it Geovisual Search.
Geovisual Search allows users to find similar-looking objects in aerial maps of China, the United States, and the world. It’s free and available online right now. Click on a visible feature—like an oil tank, an empty swimming pool, or a stack of shipping containers—and Geovisual Search will find other objects like it on the map.
Here’s a search, for instance, for solar farm-looking features in China:
“Imagine these big data sets coming along from Planet. Suddenly you’re getting daily pictures of the globe. You kind of want to count these things, every single day, and watch how they change through time,” says Mark Johnson, the CEO of Descartes Labs.