DigitalGlobe Foundation to Provide Free Access to Satellite Imagery for UC Davis

A village area in Nepal — Satellite image courtesy of the DigitalGlobe Foundation.

The University of California, Davis recently entered into a partnership with the DigitalGlobe Foundation, which will enable campus affiliates to freely access high-resolution satellite images from DigitalGlobe, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR), for research and educational purposes. Through this collaboration, the DigitalGlobe Foundation will provide sub-meter spatial resolution geospatial data to support the University’s research. The Foundation’s aim is to foster innovative solutions to today’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, food and water security, building resilient cities, and recovery from large-scale natural disasters.

“This type of data is what we often see after disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, and severe storms, but the actual range of use of the imagery to help answer ecological and agricultural questions is much wider,” said Susan Ustin, Professor of Environmental and Resource Sciences in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources.

DigitalGlobe imagery has been used to support groundbreaking research on measuring the effects of climate change on the landscape, understanding animal populations and biodiversity, identifying undiscovered archeological sites, and determining how to best provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The DigitalGlobe Foundation was established in 2007 by Colorado-based DigitalGlobe, Inc., a leading global provider of commercial high-resolution Earth-observation satellite imagery and advanced geospatial solutions. The Foundation grants access to high-resolution satellite imagery to university-level academic institutions to support research to find innovative solutions for global challenges using geospatial technologies. In 10 years, the Foundation has awarded more than 3,000 imagery grants and services covering hundreds of millions of square kilometers of the Earth.

“The DigitalGlobe Foundation plays a critical role in getting geospatial imagery, information and training to those doing scientific research about our changing planet,” said Kumar Navulur, President of the DigitalGlobe Foundation. “Through our grants, researchers and the global community gain perspective, insights and data to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

“The imagery will help researchers to scale up from the limited field sampling to landscape patterns, and thus answer many large-scale research questions,” said Yufang Jin, Assistant Professor of Remote Sensing and Ecosystem Change, and Assistant Environmental Scientist in the Agricultural Experiment Station.

“NASA and its European counterpart ESA have a long tradition of providing public domain satellite data with spatial resolution of 20 to 500 m, and in many cases we need a higher resolution in the order of 1 meter. Such data are only commercially available, and their cost has limited their use in academic research”, acknowledged Robert Hijmans, Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Access to imagery from the DigitalGlobe Foundation will reduce this cost barrier for UC Davis researchers.

Several UC Davis researchers are already benefiting from the imagery grants from the Foundation.

Researchers at the Geospatial and Farming Systems Research Consortium (GFC) of the USAID Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab are using the high-resolution DigitalGlobe imagery to study smallholder farming systems in Africa and Asia for applications ranging from identifying crops and detecting individual crop parcels to planning UAV-based flight missions.

Jordan Hollarsmith and Kate Tiedeman, graduate students at UC Davis, are studying the relationship between watershed development and long-term change in kelp canopy extent within Puget Sound, Washington, U.S., and exploring the unique wavelengths in WorldView-2 and WorldView-3’s multispectral sensors to map underwater kelp forests.

A group of undergraduates, in a new study abroad program, used high-resolution WorldView-4 imagery in-field to map the irrigation system in a remote village in Nepal for repairs and extension by villagers.

“We realize that our colleagues from various disciplines can benefit from the high-resolution imagery collected by the DigitalGlobe constellation, but are often unaware of the availability of the services. The UC Davis Center for Spatial Sciences will address these needs by providing critical expertise and learning support to UC Davis researchers” said Dr. Ani Ghosh, project scientist in the Department of Environmental Science, who is also the liaison between UC Davis and the DigitalGlobe Foundation.

Interested researchers should consult with Dr. Michele Tobias, GIS data curator at the UC Davis Shields Library, for image requests for research projects. Additionally, you will find instructions for requesting data on

“The partnership with the DigitalGlobe Foundation is an example of the ways that the Center of Spatial Sciences aims to bring together the UC Davis community of researchers with an interest in spatial data analysis,” said Dr. Hijmans.

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