The European Space Agency’s Pléiades-1 satellite was launched a little under a year ago. One of its imagers has the ability to resolve objects as small as 8 inches across.
While that’s not quite fine enough to read a license plate, it’s easily enough to determine the make and model of a vehicle.
And with the near real-time images available to users within an hour in some instances, they could also be used to determine crowd (troop) numbers and to help emergency officials respond to all types of natural and manmade disasters.
Pléiades-1 surveilance has already been used to help cope with the flood disaster currently affecting central Nigeria.
The image to the right of downtown Dubai is one of the initial test products taken on January 4, 2012, less than three weeks after the satellite was launched on a Russian Soyuz ST rocket from French Guiana.
Pléiades-2 is slated to launch before the end of this year and to be placed in a polar orbit that will keep it focused at all times on the exact opposite side of the planet as Pléiades-1.
This will allow the pair’s very-high-resolution remote sensors to capture pictures of any geographical location twice each day.
And because the imagers can look at various angles off to the side, rather than straight down like NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, buildings, vegetation and other objects can appear as if you are flying over them in an aircraft.
Such is the case in the image above, showing Dubai’s Burj Khalifa Tower — the tallest manmade structure in the world.
Image: European Space Agency