NGA joins SpaceNet satellite imagery initiative

The geospatial agency will take part in the effort to provide a huge trove of commercial satellite imagery to the public for free.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which provides imagery, geospatial information and analysis to the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and others, is joining a private-sector consortium effort to help improve its services.

NGA said this month it will take part in SpaceNet, a collaboration among DigitalGlobe, In-Q-Tel’s CosmiQ Works and Nvidia that offers a trove of commercial satellite imagery free to the public with the goal of fostering “innovation in developing computer vision algorithms to automatically extract information from remote sensing data,” according to a post at Amazon Web Services, which hosts the repository.

NGA provides a variety of services, including its far-reaching Map of the World, which pulls together geospatial intelligence, imagery analysis and other factors to create a cloud-based  foundation for multiservice integration of intelligence.

SpaceNet presents an opportunity to test and train new generations of analysis tools for sifting through massive data sets of imagery. SpaceNet’s current collection of information, which it calls a corpus, currently holds about 1,900 square kilometers of full-resolution 50-centimeter imagery collected from DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 commercial satellite. The dataset also offers 220,594 building footprints that SpaceNet said could be used as training data for machine learning. (The first location with building information released was Rio de Janeiro, site of the recent Olympics.)

NGA said the collaborative initiative will help the agency refine and improve its own services. “We know that what got us here won’t get us to where we need to be in the future,” said NGA Director Robert Cardillo. “These new actors in our mission space are alive with energy and ideas that enhance our collective contribution to our national security. NGA cannot do it all by itself. We must rely on our partners in science, academia and industry to help us stay ahead of technology trends.”

The imagery on SpaceNet is GeoTIFF satellite imagery with GeoJSON used for building footprints. The post on AWS gives instruction on how to access the site.