Google is buying the satellite imagery company Skybox Imagery for half a billion dollars. Google has used imagery from Landsat satellites for much of their mapping images, though in recent years they've been replacing that with detailed orbital shots from a variety of sources. Adding a satellite imaging company to their portfolio will enable Google to more quickly and accurately update their satellite maps.
The Landsat satellite images that Google has used only resolved to about 15m per pixel, while the more detailed images from sources like Skybox have enabled resolutions of 2.5m per pixel. That's still not quite as detailed as we might like, as much of the up close aerial imagery in Google Maps is taken from airplanes passing overhead, significantly closer than the orbiting satellites.
Google states that buying Skybox will enable them to "help improve internet access and disaster relief". Google has been intensely interested in spreading internet access as of late, going so far as to attempt distributing it via balloons. Satellites, on the other hand, can cover a much broader area than any balloon, and aren't as subject to the quirks of weather. On the other hand, a broadcasting computer or mobile device would require an even more powerful transmitter to be picked up by a satellite orbiting hundreds of miles overhead. In a disaster relief scenario, though, that might just be an acceptable compromise.
Adding Skybox's satellites to Google assets would quite literally be expanding Google's footprint into orbit. What would you like to see Google do with their own satellites, and does anything about that worry you?
Google and Skybox Imaging Sign Acquisition Agreement
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – JUNE 10, 2014— Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced today that it has entered into an agreement to buy Skybox Imaging for $500 million in cash, subject to adjustments.
Skybox's satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery. Over time, we also hope that Skybox's team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in.
The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals in the US.