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Satellite platforms are getting better and cheaper to build and launch. New platforms have higher resolution, collect images with greater frequency and collect new types of data, allowing new insights.
Typical serviced image
A typical serviced satellite image (bought or downloaded) includes several processing steps. From the raw image (Level 0), data are calibrated into units of physical reflectance (called Level 1 processing), and the image is geolocated and ortho-rectified following an elevation model of the terrain or Ground Control Points (GCP) of a certain Accuracy, under a geodetic reference frame (E.g. Mercator). Over large areas, several captures may need to be stitched together. This product is usually referred as Level 2 or similar. In many cases, the end user will only see the final image, either in a report or as an interactive map on the web, such as the maps in this report.
An important factor regarding the use of satellite images is the License of the data. It is important to understand the limitations, reusability and distribution restrictions of the data. For open data, like Landsat, there are no restriction on use. For high-resolution image purchases, however, usage is typically restricted to a project, and only rendered maps are publishable. Tracing rights for open platforms are sometimes granted, but License terms vary widely on a user or usage basis.