Drone imagery space

Does real time satellite imagery exist?

We live in a dynamic world. A changing planet where good and bad things happen fast. But how we wish we could be able to track and monitor these changes, everywhere and every time they happen. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could be able to have a real-time oversight of everything that’s happening around us: Who’s out there at the door? Where is Hurricane Irma? Is there a major storm approaching this part of the coast where I’m lounging as I write this article?

Sadly, there is no such capability to get reliable, real-time and high resolution imagery covering every nook in the world. What’s available is “near real-time” imagery provided by both private and government Earth Observation satellite image providers. NASA is one such prominent provider, operating constellation satellites that take daily snapshots of Earth and which are made freely available on the internet. The problem with these satellites is that they are quite old and hard to upgrade when better camera’s become available. For the purpose of monitoring large areas, they are good, but if you’re looking for finer details, you’ll be bitterly disappointed.

And a satellite is also not terribly inconvenient if you need surveillance in a particular spot, because satellites are built to fly around the globe. What that means is that either you will need an entire fleet of satellites to provide continuous coverage of a specific location, or you need a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. On top of that, you will still have to mount a gigantic telescope to get a decent resolution.

The solution to a reliable real-time imagery could be to use helicopters and airplanes, but that’s so cost ineffective that not even the good folks at Airbus have ever attempted it. As I write this article, real-time satellite imagery remains a dream. True, there are companies like GeoEye sell you ‘recent’ high-resolution satellite data, but only for areas they have recently passed over. And the cost of such recent data is astronomically expensive.
It’s probably cheaper to hire some the services of a drone operator or to get yourself one. You may also consider setting up aerial online webcams 🙂

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