FLOCK of Doves

Planet Labs, a relatively new private satellite company based in San Francisco has launched 28 Doves into space. Why would anyone release doves into space you may ask. Well these are no ordinary doves, they are micro imaging satellites.


Doves in Space.


In January this year Planet Labs sent the small “Flock” of their satellites on board the Antares rocket to rendezvous with the ISS (International Space Station). In February they were launched into orbit. Flock 1 as the 28 satellites are collectively named is currently the largest constellation of satellites in orbit. Including Flock 1, Planet Labs has 71 small satellites in various orbits around the Earth.


First two Planet Labs “Doves” are deployed from their container on board the ISS.



Closer look at Planet Labs’ Doves leaving Nanoracks deployment container.



More Doves in space.

For over 4 decades the Landsat mission has been keeping a close eye on Earth, taking images of the entire globe every 7 to 8 days. Now Planet Labs hopes to take it to the next level starting with Flock 1. In the near future there will be many of these “Flocks” of satellites in multiple orbits surrounding the Earth made up of hundreds of individual satellites thus enabling the daily capture of imagery. That’s the image of the entire Earth updated every day. The daily image updates would have many applications not fully satisfied with the current serving orbital image missions.




A dove cube nano-satellite with custom artwork. All the Doves will have original artwork on the body.

Another great advantage of the “Dove” satellites is that they are very cost effective. In fact they’re cheap enough to be expendable. This means that the satellites can be deployed as the design and system is still under development and improvement. This drastically cuts down on the cost and time that usually goes into R&D and the stringent testing of satellites before launch.


28 Doves make up “Flock 1”. All ready for launch.



Loading Tiled Imagery into Mappt

Last week I posted an article about Mappt supporting Compact Cache Bundles but did you know it already supports tiled imagery.  The difference between the two is that tiled imagery is exploded so each tile is it’s own image file.  There are three bit’s of information a tile needs to display on a google map.

  • The Level of Detail (LOD)
  • X position and
  • Y position

Tiling programs generally create a directory hierarchy to define these three properties.

Directory tile hierachy

Here the first directory is the LOD.  The next is the X location and the filename is the Y.   This is the most common structure but occasionally you will come across tiles with a single filename that contains the LOD, X and Y separated by an underscore character:


Mappt is capable of using both of these tiled images formats.  Just transfer the tiles to the tablet via the USB cable and make note of where they are located.   Personally, I load them into the Mappt -> Downloads folder and use ER File Explorer to  verify the exact path to the tiles.


Now select ‘Tiled Map Layer’ from the ‘Add/Load layer dialog’.


Enter a name for the new layer and then type in the path to the tiles.


The important part here is the fields surrounded by the curly brackets ‘{zoom}/{x}/{y}.png’ .  This part defines the structure of the tiles as discussed above.

Landsat 8. Seeing the world change

The Earth is constantly changing and never before were we able to see it in such detail. For the past 4 decades the Landsat mission has been giving us invaluable Earth imagery. Now with Landsat 8 (formally Landsat Data Continuity Mission) images are streaming back to earth in greater detail and resolution.

Below are some examples of the vast amount of satellite imagery that can be found on the USGS website.

Scantherma Landsat8 lake Urmia_Small

Lake Urmia receding over time. Images were taken by Landsat 5 and Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Scantherma Landsat8 Bahr al Milh_Small

Lake Bahr al Milh receding over time. Images were taken by Landsat 5, Landsat 7 and Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Scantherma Landsat8 Cambodia Flooding_Small

View of the 2013 Flooding in Cambodia. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Scantherma Landsat8 Grand Canyon_Small

View of the the water level on Lake Mead in 2013. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Scantherma Landsat8 Mississippi Flooding_Small

View of the 2013 Mississippi River Floods subsiding. Images were taken by Landsat 8, courtesy of NASA and USGS.

Landsat 8 officially started operating May 2013 when the satellites operations was transferred from NASA to USGS (United States Geological Survey). Along with this hand over the name of the mission was changed from Landsat Data Continuity Mission to Landsat 8. The USGS now manages the satellite flight operations team within the Mission Operations Center, which remains located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Find the above and many more images taken by the Landsat mission satellites at high-resolution at

 If you’re after satellite imagery for commercial use Scantherma has high grade acquisition and image processing services. Images can be sourced from any commercial satellite, such as Landsat mission satellites and we can cater for most budgets with quick turn around. Visit the Remote Sensing section of the Scantherma website for more information.