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Best Free Satellite Imagery Sources

Space photography has become way more accessible in recent years with the emergence of online tools that offer satellite imagery search, download, and analysis. Free satellite imagery is now widely used not only in educational and scientific circles, but also in the commercial sector.

Space-based technology has already changed ways we understand and navigate the world we live in. The technology we use to image Earth from space and analyze results is constantly developing. There are new powerful satellites that are cheaper to launch and more advanced algorithms for space data collection and analysis. Together, these technologies offer endless possibilities for Earth observation whatever the purpose is.

However, many people still don’t know where to find free satellite images. In this article, we have made up a list of free software and sources you can use to find the necessary satellite imagery and do much more with it.

LandViewer

LandViewer is a digital tool by EOS Data Analytics. The company offers different solutions leveraging the power of space data. You can visit its website here to find out more about the possibilities such solutions open for different industries.

As for LandViewer, it’s an up-to-date satellite imagery catalog that allows for satellite imagery search, download, and analysis on-the-fly. Let’s go through the main features it provides for users.

  • Images. The tool offers a catalog of historic and current satellite images from Sentinel-1 and 2, Landsat 7-8, MODIS, aerial data from NAIP, and more. Besides, you can also search and preview high-resolution satellite images for free, but if you want to download those, you’ll have to purchase.
  • Browsing. To search for satellite Earth pictures on LandViewer, simply select your AOI (Area of Interest), the fitting type of sensor, and define the time frame. On top of that, you can apply filters to the search, including image’s cloudiness percentage, AOI coverage percentage, etc. 
  • Analytics. The tool instantly visualizes and analyzes the image thanks to a variety of default band combinations and indices to help retrieve maximum value from satellite pictures instantly depending on your business’ needs and the information you want to retrieve.
  • Export. The tool allows users to download the needed images for free. You can download full size images or crop them manually prior. The export of images is available in JPEG, KMZ, or GeoTIFF file formats. You can also download only those spectral bands you will use.

One of LandViewer’s biggest advantages is its ease of use, which makes it perfect for GIS beginners and different industry experts (agriculture, forestry, oil & gas) who are looking for a free satellite imagery catalog with in-build analytics option.

USGS EarthExplorer

Among its competitors, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) possesses the longest record of free GIS data (satellite, aerial, UAV images). And all of these are available via the EarthExplorer service, which runs through Google Maps.

EarthExplorer offers a vast selection of free satellite imagery collected over the last 40 years. All images were obtained from USGS-NASA satellites: Terra and Aqua MODIS, ASTER, VIIRS, and many others. The service also contains open-source datasets that have been obtained through collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the European Space Agency (ESA). These are data from the Resourcesat-1, 2 and Sentinel-2 satellites. There is also a lot of data from commercial high-resolution satellites such as IKONOS-2 OrbView-3 and SPOT historical data.

When searching for images on EarthExplorer, you use a filter to select the date, area, or cloud cover percentage you are interested in. You can also preview pictures all at once or one by one before downloading. Besides, you can search images only for your area of interest by selecting address, coordinates, uploading a file, or drawing. To download satellite images from USGS, you will need to install the Bulk Download Application. Besides, you will need special software if you require images’ analysis.

Although EarthExplorer is one of the biggest free satellite imagery sources, it’s not the most

user-friendly option, especially for newbies. For those who are new to using such sources, it may take time to figure out how to make the most of its options and datasets.

Sentinel Hub – EO Browser

EO Browser is a service that contains data from all versions of Sentinel Hub, a web application for viewing, analyzing and evaluating satellite images, as well as by categories that are conveniently broken down by topics: agriculture, air pollution, hydrology, geology, water, ice melting, landscaping, urbanization.

SentinelHub EO Browser allows you to apply band combinations to satellite imagery and obtain corresponding indexes. With its help, you can, for example, observe changes on the planet and download satellite images in high resolution. Registered users can download images in the highest resolution.

Here are some possibilities EO Browser offers:

  • Saving preferred locations and visualizations as pins to share them with others via a link, or via a JSON file
  • Time lapse feature for creating gifs of changes that occurred over time
  • 3D feature for navigating and flying above the surface exploring, pinning, sharing or downloading the visualization

EarthData Search

Earthdata Search is an app developed by NASA’s Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project to enable satellite data search, filtering, visualization, and access across NASA’s Earth science data holdings. The search can be performed by collection, topic, or a location name. To download the imagery, you will need to create an account and register for a free profile.

Among the services EarthData Search offers are:

  • Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS)
  • Common Metadata Repository (CMR)
  • EOSDIS Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) services

CLASS by NOAA

CLASS stands for a Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System and is a facility by NOAA created for the distribution of space data from satellite and observing systems like NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES), and NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES).

CLASS is an online data management system that offers fast and easy access to America’s environmental data by supporting satellite data streams, environmental sensors, geophysical and solar environmental data, and data from buoys.

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