As TechCrunch just reported this morning, we are teaming up with Skybox, the microsatellite and analytics company, to design new interfaces for visualizing rapid satellite imagery collection. The timing of this collaboration is perfect - later this year, Skybox will be launching the first two microsatellites of a fleet of micro-satellites that will capture sub-meter satellite imagery and video (down to zoom level 17). We were just in Mountain View visiting with their team, checking out the nearly complete satellites in their clean room, their operational mission control center, and talking about the publishing interfaces possible with near real-time collection. Here is a first look at what we are building together.

To prototype publishing interfaces possible with high spatial and temporal resolution data, Skybox tasked the Ikonos satellite weekly over the last couple of months, looking at the Port of Long Beach, California. Here are two examples of time sliders built on the MapBox API to give a sense of what is possible with this type of analysis and publishing using open source tools. These kind of visualizations showcases the power of repeated, consistent monitoring of spot locations on Earth.

Interactive Change Analysis

View Fullscreen: https://www.mapbox.com/bites/00242/long-beach

This interactive time series UI lets you toggle between 5 different capture dates and auto play the chance in time, all while interacting with the map just like any other web map. Changes in the port over the collection period jump out immediately with this type of display. An end-user can immediately identify dynamic areas within the scene, quickly orienting the user within the image and helping to assess where additional analysis should be completed.

Asset tracking

Time series data is also key for asset tracking. Here is a new concept for how we think about interactive briefing reports, specifically tracking a very large crude carrier operated by the Alaska Tanker Company unloading at the Port of Long Beach, and then going back out to sea, capturing it’s location each time and providing context. View Fullscreen: https://www.mapbox.com/bites/00242/flyover

One of the key benefits of Skybox’s approach is their high performance at low cost – you can have a lot more of them in the sky, which means they will eventually capture imagery really fast, multiple times a day. Skybox is taking this to scale by letting people manage all their own tasking jobs directly online. Once your imagery is captured it will be dropped to one of two ground stations and delivered right to your inbox. You can then take the GeoTIFFs and analyze them in TileMill and export them out as web maps for the world to see, all in it matter of just hours.

The potential for rapid imagery is huge. We are especially excited about media organizations that want to better publish the imagery on the web and mobile in a fully interactive way.

As two start-ups embracing open-source and trying to bring the traditional aerospace industry into the internet age, it feels really natural to be working with Skybox to change the way consumers, businesses, and governments view the world.

The Skybox launch is on schedule for this year and we can expect commercial operations by fourth quarter this year. If you are interested in getting early access, email me (chris (at) mapbox.com) any questions.