Here or there?

How accuracy in satellite imagery impacts your operations and outcomes


When you’re looking at imagery for visual context, how closely what you see aligns to an object’s actual location on the ground might not be critical. But for city planning, oil and gas drilling, cell tower placement and other applications where being off a few meters could impact your bottom line, or even put lives at risk, accuracy is critical. The more accurate the imagery, the more you minimize error and feel confident in the decisions your organization makes based on what it’s telling you.

Accuracy: Reducing the margin of error

In Earth imagery, accuracy is stated in terms of confidence. How confident are we that the identified feature is where the image shows it? What is the margin of error?

For example, Maxar provides an accuracy of 5 m CE90, which translates to: you can be 90% confident the identified feature is within a 5 meter radius of where the image suggests it is. In many applications, being a few meters off in your measurements can impact compliance with safety regulations, which ultimately impacts your bottom line.

For heavily regulated industries, like Oil and Gas, knowing exactly where to drill is critical for compliance. A larger margin of error increases the risk of wasted resources drilling in the wrong location as well as safety hazards and costly legal consequences.

If you were to send a field worker to the coordinates this tank appears to be at in accurate imagery, you can be confident the site will be within 5 m of those coordinates, in any direction. That’s a lot better than giving them coordinates based on a less accurate image, which could lead them to the wrong location.

If you’re dealing with regulations that determine the distance your sites must be from residential areas, the difference between 5 m accuracy and 25 m accuracy could mean you’re non-compliant, costing you time, resources and fees.

Accuracy matters, in distance and in height

From fitness trackers to autonomous vehicles, we are exponentially reliant on wireless networks for everyday activity. And for some—like 911 operators and emergency responders—having a reliable cell signal can be the difference between life and death.

5G networks and beyond will use high-frequency spectrum to increase speed and capacity, but this also presents new challenges in sensitivity. Signals require a direct line-of-sight to the device or between towers. That’s tricky in metropolitan areas, so placing small cells in the right places requires knowing the exact locations of buildings, vegetation and potential obstructions. And this is where accuracy comes in.

In the race to 5G, inaccurate information can cost network providers time, money, and customer loyalty. Accurate imagery fuels 3D models that help engineers understand exactly where structures are to ensure line of sight for a clear signal.


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