Outside of select government and military applications, on demand satellite imagery and video is still little more than a dream. But a few startups are working on tackling that problem, and we're getting to see the first fruits of their labor. SkyBox Imaging has released a video showing off its satellite assets, including incredible video footage of the world from far above. The clip below of Beijing's Capital International Airport is stitched in with Google Earth-like still satellite imagery. The result is an exciting peek at what future mapping service could look like with live HD video footage of the entire earth.
If you don't find the final product truly impressive, it may be because movies like Black Hawk Down have made such video streams seem mundane. But that's far from the case. For those with big enough pocketbooks to request specific footage from SkyBox and its competitors, the imagery could help with everything from monitoring crop health and oil pipeline safety to trying to get an edge in the stock market by examining commercial activities. For example, on SkyBox's website, the company says its sub-meter resolution is enough to keep tabs on parking lots, barges coming into and out of ports, and even seeing how much oil is left in storage containers.
The imagery comes from the first of 24 planned microsatellites by SkyBox. It weighs just over 250 pounds (120kg) and it's only about the size of a minifridge — 60cm x 60cm x 90cm — which helps drastically cut the cost of the entire process. The first satellite launched last last year, and thirteen more are set to be produced and launched through 2015 and 2016. That means we're a long, long ways off from an instantly-accessible, live video version of Google Earth, but we'll keep dreaming.