A Search Engine for Satellite Imagery

At this very moment, people and businesses all over the world are struggling with questions that could be answered with Earth Observation (EO) data.

Where is the best place to plant my crop? How can we ramp up local conservation efforts? How can we protect our food supply chain?

“Making sure that people have access to [EO] data will enable them to start answering important questions,” says Jamie Conklin, VP of Product at Astraea. But here’s the problem, and it’s a massive one: “Finding the data and getting access to these data is a pain.”

That’s because satellite images come in myriad forms (raster, vector,
tabular) and different types (RF, AIS, DEM, DOQ) from various sources (NASA, USGS, UNEP) in numerous locations. Oh, and they often require different extraction methods. And even if you’re able to find the data, you then need to figure out how to obtain and purchase it.

If you’re able to get past that problem, you now need to sift through this enormous heap of noise to find what you can actually use—which in many cases requires you to figure out what it is you’re looking at, so you can read it and draw conclusions.

So, if you’re one of those people whose challenge could be solved by EO data, you’re dealing with a whole new set of questions. Where would you even start? Who would you even talk to?


Search as a Service

Jamie says he and his partners built Astraea “to remove these obstacles” so that people and companies could “become aware of what was possible with all of these data that were available.”

Astraea is “democratizing access to Earth observation data,” Jamie says, with a platform that “solves the problem of figuring out which data you need, and how to get it at a reasonable price, how to store it, how to share it across the company, how to process it, and then how to disseminate that and get that out to users.”

So, what does Astraea do to get previously inaccessible data so readily into the hands of clients? A lot.

It starts with satellite imagery companies—the organizations that are actually capturing the pictures clients need. This industry traditionally only works with large buyers (governments and the like), but it has also created “reseller networks” to allow companies like Astraea to gain access to their images.

So, when a client asks Astraea to go find data they need, Astraea acquires
the imagery data from one of these satellite imagery providers. Astraea’s
platform then delivers the images to clients.

“They can log in to our tool called EarthAI and they have access to all the imagery,” Jamie says, “plus all the public imagery that we index and make available. And so now they have this interactive Web application where they can search across space, time, and cloud cover, and dataset.”

First, You Find the Right Tools ...

Most if not all clients know about satellite imagery, obviously. But they often don’t have a full understanding of the breadth and depth of data that satellite imagery companies capture.

“We will work with organizations to consult and help them find the right data
for the project,” Jamie says. “If you have a geospatial component to your problem, I bet you there’s something we can do to provide you new information that you haven’t seen before.”

This data can include radio frequency (RF) signal, global mapping imagery,
multispectral and hyperspectral images, and more.

With all these datasets at Astraea’s disposal, it’s important to work with
clients to determine their actual needs—which are sometimes different from
what they originally thought—as well as their budget and resolution

... Then the Real Fun Starts

“We may bring our data science team in and actually build an analytic for
them,” Jamie says. “Or we will set them up with our analysis platform and
they can use our analysis tools to build their own analytics.”

With these tools, clients gain access to not just raw data, but filtered and
optimized data that can help them find exactly what they’re looking for.
Often, what the client is looking for isn’t a one-off image, but instead a series
of images over time. Naturally, Astraea can accommodate those requests, as

“We’ll set up a subscription of the data, and we have a monitoring tool that allows them to basically look at a location on earth and slide back and forward in time and see what’s going on and keep track of things,” Jamie says. “And once an analytic has been put in place, we can even set up alerts.”

Astraea also offers what the company calls “human-in-the-loop quality
assurance.” Basically, this is a team that provides human expertise in
addition to the AI and automated processing flows that Astraea employs.
“We can come in and say, ‘Don’t worry about all that. Just tell me: What are
your problems? And let us help you figure out how to solve them,’” Jamie
says. “I feel like it makes this world seem a little bit smaller and little bit
easier to answer questions in.”

Influencing the way life works on Earth by using imagery data may sound
quite lofty. But consider this: Until quite recently, this data was pretty much
only available to large governments—you know, the kinds of entities that
influence the way life works on Earth.

Now, though, organizations both large and small can use this goldmine of
visual data to solve complex problems that were heretofore unsolvable.
As for all those obstacles? They’re yesterday’s worries.


Jamie Conklin

Head of Product, Astraea

Building tools to unlock the potential of spatial data for all.