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Microsatellites: What big eyes they have
10 August 2013
People already worried about the candid cameras on Google Glass and low-flying drones can add a new potential snooper to the list: cameras on inexpensive, low-orbiting microsatellites that will soon be sending back frequent, low-cost snapshots of most of Earth's populated regions from space.
They won't be the first cameras out there, of course. Earth-imaging satellites the size of vans have long circled the globe, but those cost millions of dollars each to build and launch, in part because of their weight and specialised hardware. The new satellites, with some of the same off-the-shelf miniaturised technology that has made smartphones and laptops so powerful, will be far less expensive.
The view from high up is rich in untapped data, said Paul Saffo, a forecaster and essayist. He expects the new satellite services to find many customers. Insurance companies, for example, could use the satellites' "before" and "after" views to monitor insured property and validate claims after a disaster. Businesses that update online maps for geologists, city planners or disaster relief officials could be customers, too. The images could also be used to monitor problems like deforestation, melting icecaps and overfishing.
Source: The New York Times