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Google gives non-profit orgs access to fresh satellite images through Skybox for Good

28 October 2014, 4:05 am EDT By Aaron Mamiit Tech Times
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Skybox Imaging, one of the more recent acquisitions of Google, announced at the company's yearly Geo for Good User Summit that it is launching the Skybox for Good program.

Under the program, Google and Skybox will be providing updated satellite images to several projects that "save lives, protect the environment, promote education, and positively impact humanity," wrote Julian Mann, co-founder of Skybox and Develop Advocate for Google Earth Outreach, on the official blog for Skybox.

According to Mann, when Skybox started in 2009, the founding members already knew that the company's imaging services could bring positive changes to the world. As soon as the company's SkySat-1 imaging satellite was launched to orbit, Skybox already started monitoring critical sites for the tracking of climate change. One of these locations is Greenland's Helheim Glacier.

Skybox has also already been involved in projects such as the Signal Program of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. The non-government organization (NGO) uses Skybox images to help them in their development of tools for the management of camps set up by internally displaced persons in the Middle East and Africa.

Skybox has also recently taken satellite images of the Nagar Kovil village, located in the northern area of Sri Lanka. The HALO Trust had cleared the area of landmines, and through Skybox's imaging, verified that people are going back to live on the now-safe land. There have already been 84 houses built and 40 hectares of agricultural land cultivated in the village.

Google announced in June that it would be acquiring Skybox for $500 million, primarily for Skybox's satellites such as SkySat-1 that would be able to provide up-to-date images to maintain the accuracy of Google Maps.

Google has mentioned that it is looking for Skybox to eventually be able to assist the company in improving worldwide Internet access and undertaking disaster relief operations. However, with the announcement of Skybox for Good, it seems that the focus will first be on continuing the partnerships with NGOs that Skybox has started.

In the beta phase of Skybox for Good, the company will be selecting a few NGOs that will be receiving the satellite imaging that they would need for their projects. The images that will be collected for these NGOs will be made available to the public, to be seen and used by everyone.

Skybox has already started with the collection of such images, including pictures of Appalachia, West Virginia, near the Kanawha State Forest. The images are needed by Appalachian Voices and SkyTruth for the monitoring of ongoing mining activities in the region, which are destroying communities and forests.

Skybox for Good will be part of Google Earth Outreach, which aims to provide NGOs and public benefit organizations with what they need to further their cause and publicize their stories.

"In the future, we hope to expand the program to allow many more non-profit organizations and public interest groups to benefit from the use of Skybox data," Mann wrote.

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