What might we learn if we could observe the patterns in humanity’s mass activities — mining, clear cutting, ships moving through ports, erupting volcanoes, ground conflicts, etc — over time? What if we could do that with smaller, less expensive satellites than what’s normally in low earth orbit (LEO). Terra Bella‘s satellites, small hi-res Earth imaging satellites were created with these goals in mind.

Google insiders Natalie Hammel and Lorraine Yurshansky of Nat & Lo recently visited Terra Bella, a Google company formerly known as Skybox Imaging, to learn more about what they’re doing. Yurshansky explains:

“It’s really interesting learning that ultimately the goal of this is not the photo. It’s the data pulled from the photo, so while we love the images and you know, they’re amazing to look at, it’s not actually the end result. The end result is to be able to say like, ‘Ships are moving, deforestation is happening. What does that look like in numbers and in real data that people can actually use to make real decisions?”

Next: How does the Earth’s gravity help keep satellites in orbit? and Satellite Tracks Saharan Dust to Amazon in 3-D. Plus more from Nat & Lo.

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