Researchers get free satellite images from Amazon Web Services

LDCM_Landsat8 satellite

The development of new geographically-oriented cloud applications got a boost recently with Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN) move to enable researchers to download satellite images from one of the U.S. Geological Survey’s observation satellites.

People can now access more than 85,000 images captured by the Landsat 8 satellite. The Landsat 8 is part of a fleet of satellites which USGS and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began launching in 1972 to create moderate resolution satellite imagery of the earth every 16 days. Launched in 2013, Landsat 8 is the newest in program. It uses infrared, near-infrared and thermal-infrared light to gather data. Images from Landsat satellites have been used as the basis for research and applications for agriculture, cartography, forestry, geology, surveillance and education.

The USGS already provides Landsat 8 images for free. However, the agency cannot provide data for high-volume use by third party applications. Developers and researchers have to spend use considerable resources and time to download, store and prepare the data to be able use the images in a meaningful way.

Amazon is enabling easier downloading of these images as a way of delivering on an earlier promise made in December 2014 to help accelerate innovation in climate research, disaster preparedness and humanitarian relief.

“We have committed to host up to a petabyte of Landsat data as a contribution to the White House’s Climate Data Initiative,” wrote Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS, in a recent blog. “Because the imagery is available on AWS, researchers and software developers can use any of our on-demand services to perform analysis and create new products without needing to worry about storage or bandwidth costs.”

Early users of the service such as geographical information systems (GIS) software provider Esri, was able to demonstrate how its ArcGIS Online mapping solution can rapidly visualize Landsat data for analysis within a browser.  Click link to find out more about it.

landsat_arcgis_1 GIS apps, Esri


MathWorks Inc., a U.S.-based firm specializing in mathematical computing software, created a free-downloadable tool for accessing, processing and visualizing Landsat data. The tool enables users to create a map display of locations with markers that show metadata connected to that particular location.

landsat_matlab_1 GIS applications



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