Free/Federal Access Methods

Google Earth Engine

Google Earth Engine (GEE) is a free planetary platform for Earth Science data and analysis that provides on demand access to a data library that goes back 30 years. It has an API in Python and Javascript that allows users to easily access and analyze data on Google’s cloud, or users can download data to their google drive or local machines.

GEE enables projects in global forest cover change, habitat monitoring, disease risk mapping, monitoring global surface water, and agriculture and food security, among others. GEE is free for non-profit organizations, research scientists, and other impact users for non-commercial and research projects. If you do not fall under not-for-profit criteria, a subscription service is available for commercial use cases. If you do not fall under not-for-profit criteria, a subscription service is available for commercial use cases. GEE public data catalog contains nearly 600 datasets from more than 50 data providers from across the world, including governments, intergovernmental orgs, non-profits, and businesses.

You can view an extensive catalogue, but GEE provides users access to satellite data from common providers of data for global development including MODIS, ASTER Landsat, Sentinel, NAIP and SRTM. You can also access dozens of ancillary datasets such as GridMET (University of Idaho Gridded Surface Meteorological dataset) that can supplement your satellite data analysis.

USGS Earth Explorer

USGS Earth Explorer is a platform that offers up to date access to satellite imagery including aerial imagery, aVHRR, commercial imagery, digital elevation models, Landsat, MODIS, Lidar and Radar, among others. Additionally, USGS is one of the only platforms that offers access to Hyperion data, which was an experimental hyperspectral instrument developed by NASA. Earth Explorer gives users the opportunity to browse and download historical satellite data, but it does not have functionality for analysis like that of GEE.

Digital Earth Africa

Digital Earth Africa is a data platform that provides EO data and accompanying decision ready products that are free and accessible for users across the African continent and around the world. It is a web based platform enabled by AWS that provides users with a mapping platform and tools to explore satellite data and products to understand geographic diversity and to monitor changes over time. A big part of the platform is the Digital Earth Sandbox, a cloud based computational platform that operates through a Jupyter Lab environment. Paired with an extensive repository of readily available notebooks (user computational workflows and code), users can load, process, analyze and visualize satellite datasets. Datasets and notebook repositories are constantly growing as the user community grows across the African Continent. Common application areas of the platform are climate action and reporting, water resource and flood risk assessments, agricultural mapping and food security assessments, land degradation and coastal erosion monitoring, and urban growth studies.

Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX)

HDX is a data hub managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that provides access to 19,000 + humanitarian datasets across 254 global locations. The datasets cover baseline/development data, damage assessment data, and geospatial data. The goal of the platform is to make humanitarian data easy to find and use for analysis. Example datasets include Subnational administrative boundaries for various countries, Satellite detected water extents, and high res population density maps.

Maxar Open Data Program

Maxar is a commercial imagery provider and provides most of its imagery through its paid access platforms, but it maintains an Open Data Program where it openly releases satellite data for sudden onset major crisis events. Quickly after the onset of a disaster, Maxar posts pre and post event imagery for a disaster and makes it openly accessible for disaster response efforts. It has historical data releases dating back to 2010.

Grid3 Data Hub

Grid3’s (Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development) data hub is a large platform for sustainable development data, including data derived from satellite imagery. Grid3 works with countries to generate, validate, and use geospatial data on population estimation, settlement and infrastructure mapping, and delineating boundaries. It hosts over 250 datasets that can be leveraged for short term COVID-19 vaccine distribution or long term development projects such as filling service provision gaps. The hub is a cloud-based data platform that can be integrated with Esri’s ArcGIS pro and other GIS software to enable further analysis.


PLACE solves the inefficiencies of modern mapping by creating a trusted intermediary between public and private asset providers through a membership model that creates a club good. PLACE provides accurate and detailed hyperlocal optical imagery of the earth’s surface that everyone needs but is difficult to produce and maintain.