Main Engine Cut Off

Planet Explorer Beta

Planet co-founder and CEO, Will Marshall, introducing Explorer Beta:

What is surprising to me is that in nearly every image we collect, when we compare it to a previous image, we see some level of change: a reservoir level drains, a tree is cut down, a field is harvested. People think of the Earth as static because we’ve been trained on static maps. In reality, Earth has never been static; it’s always changing and imagery of our planet should reflect that.

Explorer Beta is available publicly and, with no login, users can see regional and global change month-by-month or quarterly as they browse our global Timelapse Basemaps. Each basemap is made from over 2 million satellite images automatically processed and stitched together. At 3-5 meter per pixel, users can see a tree, a road or a ship, but not people or license plates; the goal is to see broad-scale change.

I remember the excitement around Google Earth way back when it was first released. I would spend hours zooming in and out all over the world to see satellite imagery of places I’ve lived, loved, or hadn’t experienced first-hand. Explorer Beta feels like the next step: open and accessible just like Google Earth, but this time with dynamism.

Seeing the change over seasons, months, or even days is wonderfully interesting to you and I, and it’s easy to see how useful this type of imagery can be to governments, businesses, and other organizations.

Explorer is something that seems so simple and obvious in hindsight, but only became possible once a few things came together in the right way: the rise of small satellites, the increase of launch availability, and easy distribution on the web, to name a few.

It feels a lot like the way Instagram rose to popularity. There had been plenty of photo sharing services over the years, but the one that was built alongside the rise of smartphones with great cameras and an always-on Internet connection took off like nearly everything before it failed to do.

Timing is everything.