Two months ago, after much lobbying by the biggest satellite company in North America, DigitalGlobe, the US government relaxed restrictions to allow for commercially available satellite imagery up to 25 cm resolution—twice as detailed as the previous limit of 50 cm.
Now, the first commercial satellite set to capture these high-res images, DigitalGlobe's Worldview-3, will launch this Wednesday. Six months after that, private businesses willing to fork over the money will be able to get their hands on hyper-detailed photos and videos of the globe.
That, of course, includes Google.
Google—along with Microsoft, nasa, and numerous US federal agencies such as National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which played a pivotal role in the seizure of Osama Bin Laden—is a regular DigitalGlobe customer. It signed a multiyear imagery contract with the colossus satellite company in February to use satellite imagery for apps like Google Earth, Maps, and Street View.
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The extra sharp images from Worldview-3 will greatly increase the maps' level of detail to the point where it can make out 10-inch objects, which means Google will soon be able to see “manholes and mailboxes” from its hired eyes in the sky.