Search engine offers range of opportunities using satellite imagery

December 15, 2017  - By

Where are baseball stadiums in the world?

Where are all the windmills on Earth? Or oil derricks? How about baseball stadiums?

You could scan through the millions of satellite images snapped by hundreds of satellites now circling the planet. Or you could try Descartes Labs’ demo search engine.

Satellites are snapping images of the Earth every day. Alongside Planet Inc. and DigitalGlobe satellites, imaging constellations are planned from companies such as Urthecast and Astro Digital (the latter launched its first pair of satellites in July). But how do we make use of all of that data in an organized, searchable way?

New Mexico startup Descartes Labs has created a cloud-based supercomputing platform to apply machine intelligence to massive data sets, using satellite imagery to model complex systems on the planet.

While Descartes started by focusing on forestry and agriculture, its new Geovisual Search tool allows users to find similar-looking objects of any kind all over the globe. Just click anywhere on the map and a red tile appears, enabling users to search for similar objects. Descartes was inspired by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, who applied the principles of visual search to seven cities around the world in a demo called Terrapattern. Descartes has built three demo maps on three different scales: The continental United States, China and the entire world.

Check out GeoVisual Search at, and Terrapattern at

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.