Will Marshall: The mission to create a searchable database of Earth’s surface | TED Talk

And we now have over 200 satellites in orbit, downlinking their data to 31 ground stations we built around the planet. In total, we get 1.5 million 29-megapixel images of the Earth down each day. And on any one location of the Earth’s surface, we now have on average more than 500 images. A deep stack of data, documenting immense change.

Anyone can go online to planet.com open an account and see all of our imagery online. It’s a bit like Google Earth, except it’s up-to-date imagery, and you can see back through time. You can compare any two days and see the dramatic changes that happen around our planet. Or you can create a time lapse through the 500 images that we have and see that change dramatically over time.

What we’re doing with artificial intelligence is finding the objects in all the satellite images. The same AI tools that are used to find cats in videos online can also be used to find information on our pictures. So, imagine if you can say, this is a ship, this is a tree, this is a car, this is a road, this is a building, this is a truck. And if you could do that for all of the millions of images coming down per day, then you basically create a database of all the sizable objects on the planet, every day. And that database is searchable.

I can imagine us abstracting out the imagery entirely and just having a queryable interface to the Earth. Imagine if we could just ask, “Hey, how many houses are there in Pakistan? Give me a plot of that versus time.” “How many trees are there in the Amazon and can you tell me the locations of the trees that have been felled between this week and last week?” Wouldn’t that be great?

This is fantastic. It’s well worth putting aside 20 minutes to watch the video and then go play around at planet.com.

Up-to-date high res image of Cape Town.