There is never enough data — introducing commercial datasets

Grega Milcinski
Apr 2, 2020 · 4 min read

People do magic with Sentinel data but there often comes a moment, when one would need additional data or better resolution or something similar. Now, this is possible with the simplicity and efficiency of Sentinel Hub.

Comparison of 10-meter, 3-meter and 0.5-meter image resolution, credit: Airbus

We are continuously amazed by observing what our users are doing with Sentinel data. They monitor agriculture activities, predict yields and guess what crop it is. Many observe the impacts of natural disasters such as floods and wildfires. Some track military activities. However, even though Sentinel-2 data are tremendous in terms of revisit time and quality, one desires more. Perhaps there was an overcast during two consecutive acquisitions and one is eagerly awaiting an update during the most important part of a crop growth cycle. Or sub-meter spatial resolution is required to digitise or analyse some properties in detail. Our users were making such requests on a regular basis, and for a time we were unable to provide them with a solution as it was simply too complicated. Now, this changes!

Historically, what has kept people from using commercial satellite data, has been a combination of complexity and inefficiency of the purchase, often involving a lot of e-mail communication, minimum order sizes, requirements to buy 95% of the data which is not needed, and even commitments of tens of thousands of EUR per year, since resellers simply did not want to bother with small users.

We were struggling for quite some time on how to work around this issue. Last year we were lucky to be awarded an ESA funded project to establish the “core” data cube facility serviceEuro Data Cube. There were two benefits related to the data coming out of the project. The first one was that Planet took a role in our consortium, making it possible to get inside knowledge about the challenges that commercial providers are facing when setting up their business models. It was great to work with a company like Planet that is focused on making satellite data visible, accessible and actionable for the masses. By working with them, we were able to iterate much faster to create a model that is good for our users as well as for the data provider and their partners. The second benefit of the Euro Data Cube project was tremendous support by ESA, who gave weight to our discussions with providers. This sped up the process and opened quite a few doors.

We are therefore delighted to launch this service, today, on-boarding first Planet and Airbus, but soon adding others as well. These two were selected after thorough consideration.
Planet‘s flagship PlanetScope product provides 3–5 meter resolution snapshots of everywhere on the planet, updated on a daily basis. PlanetScope data is perfect for monitoring agriculture, especially in parts of the world with lots of cloud cover. The spatial resolution also makes it possible to observe smaller fields.
Airbus on the other side, with Pleiades and SPOT missions, gives our users the level of details (0.5 meter and 1.5 meter resolution respectively) that will satisfy practically all the needs related to the detailed insight. Initially, the archive data will be available, but we are working on tasking requests as well.

The main challenges of the process were addressed. Users can only purchase the data that they need — with Planet going as low as 1 ha (0.01 km²) and with Airbus 0.25 km² for Pleiades and 2.5 km² for Spot. Minimum commitment is actually minimum — Airbus data are available on a pay-per-use basis, Planet in small packages. The ingestion process is fully automatic — an API to search for available data and an API to order the data. These are then downloaded from the respective providers to Sentinel Hub-managed storage and appropriately processed to be available, ready-to-use, through a standard set of Sentinel Hub APIs, in a couple of minutes, ready for analysis and follow-up processing.

Working with satellite data has never been easier.

So go ahead and try these services out. Our commercial and enterprise users are entitled to a provisional volume of Airbus data free of charge. For those working in R&D or in the business development phase, there is an ESA sponsored opportunity involving minimum overheads — just one simple form to fill. In the first few weeks, we will be proceeding with a staged roll-out, in order to fine-tune the process and make sure that everything works as it should. It’s available to anyone, just contact us.

This is just the first step. We will be adding new providers shortly in order to expand the data offering. If you are a data provider and you have APIs to search and download process, make sure to contact us. We are also working on data fusion functionality, which will make it possible to seamlessly combine various datasets. The operational prototype is already available, so if you are interested to try it out, let us know.

One more thing… after many questions and requests in the past we have launched, with support of AWS, the expansion of the Sentinel-2 L2A archive to contain atmospherically corrected data globally since the beginning of 2017.

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