Maximizing image availability, part 3: weather modeling & contingency strategies

Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed how DigitalGlobe maximizes imagery availability in your area of interest (AOI) through our comprehensive collection strategy, and by applying cutting-edge tools like DigitalGlobe Atmospheric Compensation (AComp) to new collection and image library requests alike. For part three of our Availability blog series, we’ll talk about the weather.

Sometimes, you do need a better forecast…

How do we fully leverage our industry-leading satellite constellation to maximize imagery availability in your AOI? Well, we use advanced technologies and processes that take into account an incredibly wide range of changing conditions and varying requirements. Chief among these is understanding how climate and weather impact our ability to collect new imagery and using predictive modeling to help guide our collection plan.

One of the most fundamental realities of high-resolution satellite imagery is that you can’t collect when you can’t see through to the ground (in the visible bands, at least). Tools like AComp can help mitigate many hazy atmospheric conditions, but when it’s socked-in cloud cover at a given location, trying to capture in the visible spectrum can be an exercise in futility. In those cases, its often better to skip the cloud covered cells, and collect alternative cells where it is less cloudy.

Two images of the same area of Bangkok. The image on the left is hard to identify based on cloud cover, while the image on the right is clear of cloud cover or weather.
Two images of the same area of Bangkok. The image on the left is hard to identify based on cloud cover,
while the image on the right is clear of cloud cover and weather.

Weather modeling is a key input in our Content Planning Program (CPP). DigitalGlobe pioneered the field of weather modelling for satellite imaging purposes—just like you’d expect from the industry trailblazers. We have an on-staff PhD meteorologist and a team of dedicated developers who continuously refine our approach and improve the reliability of the models we use to help aim our sensors efficiently.

DigitalGlobe leverages 26 years of weather collection data and utilizes advanced algorithms that adjust dynamically over time with the latest inputs. Some of our unique weather model capabilities include granular, highly localized weather modeling over the entire world and incorporate climate patterns like El Niño and La Niña. Using both long-term planning based on climate and short-term, tactical reactions based on weather, we now know very accurately when and where to collect in order to maximize effective usage of our constellation.

This does more than just build up top-quality imagery for our library. It also means more capacity is available for our tasking customers—especially in high demand (but cloudy) areas of the world. In fact, our weather modelling is so good we include it in our Marine Services product line to help fisherman plan their routes, save on expenses and catch more fish.

Learn more about how we maximize image availability here.

And stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of our Availability blog series, in which we explain how high-level strategies, AComp and weather modeling all come together in a way that’s equal parts art and science.