April 19, 2019

Free Satellite Imagery Sources: Zoom In Our Planet

We live in a wonderful era when absolutely anyone can access the latest free satellite imagery of Earth; it only takes to know where you can find them. Our list of free satellite imagery will make it easier to decide which of the available web services has the data you need. Some of them are streaming free current satellite images, while some provide historical data. Some portals accumulate free high-resolution satellite imagery for profound scientific research and some are good for amateur use.

Check the tips below to see, which platform is the most applicable for you.

USGS EarthExplorer: Free-To-Use Satellite Imagery

The USGS agency has the longest record of collecting free GIS data (free satellite images, aerial, UAV), which is made available via EarthExplorer.

USGS Earth Explorer interface

Imagery. The selection of free satellite imagery in EarthExplorer is overwhelming: from optical and radar data of weather satellite images to digital elevation maps. You will find there 40 years’ worth of free satellite images from USGS-NASA Landsat missions, and a diversity of data from other NASA remote sensors (Terra and Aqua MODIS, ASTER, VIIRS, etc.). It also features open-source datasets provided under collaboration with ISRO (Resourcesat-1 and 2), ESA (Sentinel-2), and some commercial high-resolution satellite images (IKONOS-2, OrbView-3, historical SPOT data).

Search. EarthExplorer allows you to narrow down the search for free satellite imagery by area, date, cloud cover %. All the found tiles can be conveniently previewed one by one or all at once.

On top of the standard Area of Interest selection options (address, coordinates, file upload, or drawing), the interface offers a feature-based search, which is pretty fun to test. You can find all possible features, even less common ones ‒ like ancient roads or graves ‒ anywhere in the world.

Download. For USGS free satellite image download, you will need to install the Bulk Download Application. Depending on the sensor, various data products can be downloaded (Level-1, 2, 3, Natural color imagery, Thermal imagery, etc.).

Analysis. EE can be used for search, preview, and free GIS data download purposes only. If you want to analyze images, you will need special software.

EarthExplorer is an undisputed leader among free satellite imagery sources in terms of data variety but not the most user-friendly service, especially to a non-expert. It may take a while to familiarize yourself with all the buttons, menu options, and datasets available. So be prepared that your first search for satellite images can be quite time-consuming.

Landviewer: Free Access To Satellite Images

LandViewer is a free GIS database with an easy-to-master interface that gives access to the most widely used satellite images, allows high-resolution satellite imagery free previews and ordering, and features many tools for analysis.

LandViewer interface

Imagery. LandViewer offers miscellaneous global satellite images. You can get the most free up-to-date satellite images from Landsat 7-8, Sentinel-1 and 2, CBERS-4, MODIS, aerial data from NAIP, or get Landsat 4-5 historical satellite imagery. It also features an impressive list of free high-resolution satellite images for search and preview, and available for purchase. Some of the datasets you can get there include SPOT 5-7, Pleiades-1, Kompsat-2, 3, 3A, SuperView-1; the best spatial resolution comes up to 40 cm per pixel.

Search. The search is very simple and straightforward: once you set the Area of Interest using one of the multiple options (including file upload), select the type of sensor and pick the dates. Additionally, you can apply cloud cover %, Sun elevation, and AOI coverage % filters. Make sure to save your Area of Interest and subscribe to new scenes ‒ this great feature will save a lot of time in the future.

Download. When it comes to downloading data, LandViewer has a lot to offer. Let’s imagine you’ve come for free Landsat satellite images download, what are your options? First, you can download a free full or manually cropped Natural color Landsat image in JPEG, KMZ, or GeoTIFF. If you need only specific spectral bands, use the second option to get only those you will use. And the third option is downloading a processed image: a band combination or a calculated index.

If you don’t want to store images on PC, save them to cloud EOS Storage or use WMS feature to streamline satellite data to desktop GIS software.

Analysis. Unlike most free satellite imagery sources, LandViewer enables instant visualization and analysis of the data you’ve found. Over twenty default band combinations and indices such as NDVI, NBR, SAVI, the raster calculator-like custom index builder, time series analysis, clustering, and more of its tools are meant to help extract the value from satellite images free.

LandViewer is the best satellite imagery source for GIS beginners and experts from other industries (agriculture, forestry, construction) who don’t use special GIS software and are looking for free updated satellite imagery with fast and accurate analytics included.

Copernicus Open Access Hub: Up-to-date Free Satellite Imagery

Formerly the “Sentinels Scientific Data Hub”, the ESA’s open access portal is able to quench anyone’s thirst for Sentinel data.

Copernicus Open Access Hub interface

Imagery. Currently, Copernicus Open Access Hub brings to users the latest free satellite images from all active Sentinels: radar imagery from Sentinel-1, optical multispectral Sentinel-2 imagery, Sentinel-3 land products for environmental monitoring, atmosphere and air quality data from Sentinel-5P.

Search. Copernicus Hub’s interface is very laconic, which doesn’t necessarily mean convenient. You can’t upload a file with your AOI, and to run a search by coordinates you have to type in a text query using specific operators. For example, to apply the cloud cover filter you need to enter “[0 to 5]”. It does make sense for professionals but is difficult to digest for non-experts.

Download. To download recent satellite images free, you just need to add them to the cart.

Analysis. There are no analytical tools or even image visualization on a map. You can only preview a tile in the “Quicklook” mode alongside very detailed metadata.

Copernicus Open Access Hub can be recommended as a source of all the Sentinels’ free satellite imagery. However, if you’re after data from Sentinel-1 or 2, consider trying out other data sources offering the same images with a slightly better user experience.

Sentinel Hub: Free High-Quality Satellite Images From Multiple Sources

Sentinel Hub provides access to a wide range of open-source satellite imagery via its two services: EO Browser and Sentinel Playground.

Sentinel Hub interface

Imagery. EO Browser holds around a dozen of medium and low-resolution satellite imagery sets, including complete archives of all the Sentinel missions, Landsat 5-7, 8, MODIS, Envisat Meris, Proba-V, and GIBS products. Sentinel Playground, in its turn, contains a satellite imagery mosaic of the globe derived from Sentinel-2, Landsat 8, MODIS, or DEM.

Search. Both services have an intuitive interface and convenient search. EO Browser offers all the basic search filters to ease image discovery. The only caveat is that some datasets are only rendered at a certain scale: for example, a Landsat image won’t start showing until a 20-km zoom.

Download. With Sentinel Playground, you can obtain parts of the mosaic (JPEG); EO Browser enables the downloading of full-resolution images in various formats (JPEG, KMZ, GeoTIFF) or separate bands and band combinations.

Analysis. EO Browser has the tools for satellite imagery visualization and analysis. For instance, for a Sentinel-2 image, you can select one of 8 band combinations and indexes, as well as create your own. It can also generate the time series, but compared to other services (e.g., LandViewer), it won’t let you visualize all the images used.

EO Browser is an easy-to-master web service with a decent selection of free medium-resolution satellite imagery. One of its advantages is the ability to analyze and visualize image data. Sentinel Playground is more of a for-fun service for exploring and sharing fragments of the satellite imagery mosaic of the world.

NASA’s Earthdata Search provides online access to multiple collections of NASA’s EOSDIS data (Earth Observing System Data and Information System).

NASA Earthdata Search interface

Imagery. In Earthdata Search, you will find a plethora of NASA Earth science data from different sources – satellites, aircraft, field measurements, including other programs. The amount of free current satellite images and historical imagery enlisted in the “Platforms” tab is impressive: Aqua and Terra, ENVISAT, GOES, NOAA satellites, METEOSAT, Suomi-NPP, Nimbus, CALIPSO, Landsat, and much more free GIS data that enables the study of the atmosphere, environment, ocean and sea, land cover, vegetation, ice cover, and topography.

Search. You will need plenty of patience to learn to navigate and find free satellite imagery using Earthdata Search. There are tutorials and detailed descriptions for every GIS data collection but they are of little help unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. The selection of images (granules) from a long list of the collections that match your search criteria seems especially difficult to grasp. But the diversity of data compensates for this inconvenience.

Download. Depending on the dataset, free satellite imagery download may require a few extra clicks to approve certain applications. Also, not all the imagery can be previewed prior to saving to PC.

Analysis. Unfortunately, there are no in-built tools for analysis.

Earthdata Search is truly an ocean of NASA’s Earth observation data, which a researcher or a scientist can dive into. It’s not the best free satellite imagery source for amateurs, who may start from more user-friendly services and probably come back to it later for filling the data gaps.

Remote Pixel: Access The Full Feature List Without Registration

Remote Pixel is the only free satellite imagery source that doesn’t ask you to log in for accessing the full feature list. It’s a kind of an indie project entirely created by one person (Vincent Sarago).

Remote Pixel interface

Imagery. As a niche project, Remote Pixel features only three satellite imagery datasets: Landsat 8, Sentinel-2, and CBERS-4.

Search. It takes 3-4 clicks to find an image with the help of Remote Pixel Satellite Search. No AOI drawing, no date or cloud cover filters. All you have to do is select a sensor and click a tile on a satellite path-row grid that covers your area. It will show you all the available scenes.

Download. Remote Pixel no longer allows Sentinel-2 and CBERS-4 data downloads since the AWS buckets moved to Requester Pays. You can open the link and download data from AWS with your own account. The good news is you can still use Remote Pixel to download free Landsat-8 images and spectral bands.

Analysis. All the images can be visualized via Remote Pixel Viewer, which provides a list of default band combinations, as well as additional image enhancement tools alongside many different basemaps. You won’t be able to download the visualization results but you can take a screenshot.

Remote Pixel is a very simple and fast satellite imagery service providing search across a limited list of datasets along with visualization tools. However, it may be not the best place for downloading data.

INPE Image Catalog: The Portuguese Portal With Free High-Quality Satellite Images

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE in Portuguese) has its own online catalog of free satellite imagery. INPE Image Catalog features nearly a dozen satellite image collections for land cover, vegetation, water resources monitoring, as well as meteorological observations.

INPE Image Catalog interface

Imagery. INPE Image Catalog is a go-to source of free satellite imagery maps of South and Central America, and Africa only. It features satellite images from Brazil and China’s joint mission, CBERS-4, alongside U.S., UK, and India’s Earth-observing missions: Aqua, Terra, Landsat-8, ResourceSat, Suomi-NPP, DEIMOS, and UK-DMC 2. Additional free GIS data from CBERS-2, Landsat 1-3, 5, 7 satellites can be found in their a bit dated-looking cadastre.

Search. The catalog is simple and laconic with the only exception that it’s in Portuguese. However, this can be solved with the help of Google Translate for websites. Other than this, the search can be conveniently limited to specific countries/areas, dates, cloud cover %. The found tiles can be previewed on a map, both separately and all at once.

Download. To access free download high-resolution satellite images, you need to add images to the cart and order them. The downloading is carried out via an FTP link sent to your email address.

Analysis. This option is not available.

INPE Image Catalog is recommended for users whose main interest lies in South and Central America or Africa. Unfortunately, this service doesn’t provide free global satellite images but, overall, is a good user-friendly option for quick search and download of images that can be later analyzed using another software.

Google Earth: Free Historical Satellite Imagery At Hand

The platform is previously known as Earth Viewer and belonged to Keyhole Inc., bought by Google in 2004. In 2005, the software was changed to Google Earth. The program is available in two options – ordinary and the Pro version. The software works on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Android, IOS.

Google Earth satellite imagery search

Imagery. The image resolution depends on the area, and the most precisely captured regions are Las Vegas, Nevada, and Cambridge (15 cm). Free satellite images come from Landsat-8 as well as aircrafts, drones, kites, and balloons.

Search. The program allows entering the geographic location and hovering the mouse to zoom. Some images may be decades old. You can see a 2D and 3D representation of Earth.

Download. The default file of free satellite imagery is KML or KMZ (zipped). The free version allows printing images as they appear on the screen while the Google Earth Pro provides premium-quality photos and extended datasets including historical data, importing and exporting GIS data.

NOAA Data Access Viewer: Free Satellite Images Of The Coastal U.S.

The software belongs to the NOAA Office for Coastal Management.

NOAA Data Access Viewer satellite imagery search

Imagery. The user can choose between three data types – imagery, land cover, and elevation/lidar. The imagery is sorted out by provider, year (ascending or descending), dataset name. Images are available in infrared and natural color.

Search. The search options for free satellite images include entering an address, longitude/latitude coordinates, or extent.

Download. To download images, you need to add them to the cart, get a link, and select the required file format. Bulk download is also available.

Analysis. Customized data is provided upon request and is shared with an email link. Standard data are accessed through the link in the viewer.

NOAA CLASS: Free Satellite Images Of Earth Environment

CLASS is the acronym for the Comprehensive Large array data Stewardship System by NOAA. This is an electronic library containing data on our planet’s environment.

Imagery. The data available are derived from POES and GOES (Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite correspondingly). Other popular satellite systems include the Global Navigation Satellite System, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, Radarsat, and some others. Users can select resolutions (e.g. 1 m or 4 m).

Search. To search for free satellite images, you need to register on the site and customize the preferences. The options comprise search by data product, dataset name, or UUID. The scope of observations embraces real-time images of weather, oceans, fisheries, climate (the so-called image of the day).

Download is available by pressing the download button and saving the picture on the condition of crediting to NOAA.

Analysis. For data extraction, users are free to choose the output format, bands, channel number, resolution, map overlay, bit/pixels. Order status can be tracked in the navigation panel and with email notifications.

NOAA Digital Coast: Extensive Free Satellite Imagery Dataset With Analytical Options

The platform was released in 2007 and provides detailed information on the coastal U.S. in numerous focus areas.

NOAA Digital Coast Data satellite imagery search

Imagery. The free data collection originates from multiple sources verified by NOAA.

Search. The site has tips to improve first-users’ experience as well as learning courses. The extensive content (2816 datasets) is categorized by types, including elevation, land cover, imagery and lidar, weather and climate, economic and demographic data, fishery and ocean studies, water quality, infrastructure, etc. Depending on the focus area, users can browse free infrared and natural color images via Data Access Viewer or MarineCadastre.gov National Viewer.

Download. The platform has preview and download options with custom download or links to data files in the TIFF format.

Analysis. The free source has seventy-two tools sorted by alphabet (ascending or descending), areas of focus, and purpose, enabling visualization, analysis, reporting, and learning.

Earth On AWS: A Huge Registry Of Free Satellite Imagery Sources And Use Cases

The registry of AWS resources enables users to view or share available datasets from various sources as well as apply them in various fields of interest. Most datasets are maintained and provided by third parties.

Imagery. Spatial images originate from multiple satellites (Sentinel-2, Landsat-8, NEXRAD, GOES-16 and 17, CBERS on AWS, and many others. The platform highlights usage examples referring to agriculture, disaster response, satellite imagery, geospatial, etc.

Search. For certain tags, you can find as many as 80 free satellite imagery datasets in various formats. For example, Sentinel-2 products include multispectral mosaic data (GeoPackage or MapCache SQLite files or GeoTIFFs (RGB or RGB/NIR).

Download. If you want to download a free satellite image, go to the specific product. In the case of Sentinel-2 cloudless, select the area and get a picture in a new window which you can save on your PC or send to a mobile device.

Analysis. The tool enlists multiple applications and use cases. Besides, you can add your layers to the maps tailoring them to your needs.

Zoom Earth: Instant Sharing Of Up-to-date Free Satellite Imagery

Users can check the current situation regarding weather, storms, wildfires, or date back to 1999 or later, setting the year, month, date, and time.

Zoom Earth satellite imagery search

Imagery. Zoom Earth shows free up to date satellite imagery (almost in real time) which is updated every 10-15 minutes.

Search. The retrieved data come from NOAA GOES, JMA Himawari-8, EUMETSAT Meteosat, GIBS, Suomi-NPP, MODIS Aqua and Terra. Historical images are credited to Bing and Esri. To search for a location, you just need to enter it in the field.

Download. There is no possibility to download but the tool allows sharing free data to social media like Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram, Twitter, or via email.

Analysis. There are no specific features for analysis apart from sorting out map labels, live and daily satellites, daily fire spots, or storm tracks. There is an option to measure area and distance and zoom to center as well as to pass to your location.

Maxar Open Data Program: A Free Satellite Imagery Catalog For Rescue In Action

The product is designated to help rescue missions to manage disasters and respond to emergencies. It provides information on nature calamities like hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires, floods, explosions, earthquakes with brief descriptions and photos.

Imagery. Maxar satellites provide free hi-res satellite images.

Search. You can search for disaster events by their name and date from most recent back to 2010. Earlier images are available in the archive. By clicking “Learn more” you will get a list of available photos sorted by their IDs and dates.
Download. You can save images to your computer with a preview as TIFF files.

Analysis. Not available.

NASA Worldview: About 900 Free Online Hi-Res Satellite Images For Keen Studying

The app from NASA’s EOSDIS allows interactive browsing of full-resolution satellite imagery available globally, in near real-time (after three hours of retrieval). The up-to-date images provide information on disaster management (fires, floods) and air quality. Browsing is available from a PC, tablet, or smartphone.

NASA Worldview satellite imagery search

Imagery. Hi-resolution images from MODIS, EOS LANCE, EOSDIS DAACs, NOAA, etc.

Search. Search is possible by events and dates either clicking or swiping the timescale. Most of the photos are available in standard geospatial projection, Arctic and Antarctic.

Download. Users can share a permanent link or download the required free satellite images via the snapshot option selecting the preferred resolution (30 m-10 km), file format (JPEG, KMZ, GeoTiff, PNG), zipping, and clicking the download button.

Analysis. The free portal provides a plethora of overlays, base layers, and additional layers for multiple modifications, to check air quality, dust storms, droughts, floods, vegetation, ash plumes, shipping, among others.

Detailed online tutorials to use and download free satellite imagery help site visitors navigate the tool highlighting its multiple features.

JAXA’s Global ALOS 3D World: A Digital Model Of Our Planet Earth

ALOS 3D World is a digital model of our planet’s surface by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

Imagery. 30 m horizontal resolution (hence the acronym AW3D30). The free source is based on over 3 mln images obtained with the PRISM tool onboard DAICHI – Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS for short). The mission lasted from 2006 to 2011.

Search. You can zoom in and out or move the map with a mouse. The product has several release versions. The latest one is 3.1.

Download. The free satellite imagery of the source can be loaded via the link to the dataset, registration is required. The original DSM files are displayed in the GeoTiff format, which can be further converted to SRTM HGT.

Analysis. Not available.

VITO Vision: Download Satellite Images For Free

VITO provides free satellite imagery on its product distribution portal available with and without subscription. The subscription offers advanced search features as well as the possibility to get the required data in the future once they are available.

Imagery. The imagery on the portal is grouped into several collections (e.g., Proba-V, Spot-vegetation, Sentinel-2, Metor-AVHRR, Envisat-Meris). Resolution ranges from 100 m to 1 km.

Search. In each category and subcategory, the users define their search criteria like the region of interest by dragging or typing the country or continent in the search field, specifying the date range, and clicking the search button. The portal has a demo tutorial explaining how to use it.

Download. Viewing free satellite imagery is allowed anonymously while downloading requires registration and accepting the terms and conditions. The files can be retrieved in the KML format. The search results come with a thumbnail and can be downloaded one by one or all together. For large data amounts, it is best to place an order and get an email link. For quick download, install an FTP client.

Analysis. Some free collections (e.g. Proba-V 300 m) include red band and NDVI projections. File stitching and band combinations are performed upon request in customized order deliveries (for specific users).

Global Land Cover Facility: Over A Petabyte Resource To Download Free Satellite Images

The portal is a large repository for free satellite image data housed and operated by the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, U.S. The source is useful to anyone interested in global environmental systems.

Imagery. The free satellite imagery on the platform shows the land cover and its changes on the local and global scale. It embraces forests, crops, grasses, sands, urban constructions.

Search. Text-based, temporal, and/or spatial queries through a shopping basket.

Download. Free satellite imagery download is available from GBLF via an FTP client. On a larger scale, free detailed satellite imagery can be retrieved via the Earth Science Data Interface (ESDI). The data applications include science, environment studies, resources and disaster management, computer science.

Analysis. A comparison of the same terrain on different dates allows detecting the slightest changes on the Earth’s surface.

UNAVCO: Free Live Satellite Imagery And Historical Data For Actionable Insights

UNAVCO is a University consortium headquartered in Colorado, U.S. It provides open-access geosciences data.

Imagery. Live satellite images for free in BINEX, RINEX, and RTCM formats.

Search. Data types are grouped as GPS/GNSS, SAR, Lidar/SfM, seismic and tropospheric data both already downloaded and currently streaming. Each data category has a video tutorial with user guidelines. For example, daily or hourly GPS free up-to-date satellite images are filtered by network and station name, temporal availability.

Download. To save your recent search results, add them to the cart and pre-install the UNAVCO downloader, or some other clients for advanced data access and customization (Java, Web services, FTP, GSAC). Free real time satellite imagery is available upon email request.

As for SAR data, the Seamless SAR Archive is recommended. Via it, users can select the orbit, swath, satellite name. Access to SAR results downloading is granted to affiliates of SAR-research establishments.

Analysis. UNAVCO additionally offers software to process the acquired data (GPS/GNSS, SAR, TLS).

Bhuvan Indian Geo-Platform Of ISRO-NRSC: India’s Contribution To Remote Sensing

Bhuvan is a platform jointly operated by the Indian Space Research Organization and National Remote Sensing Center.

Bhuvan satellite imagery search

Imagery. The data is derived from Indian satellites (IMS, Oceansat, Cartosat, Resourcesat). It comprises free access satellite imagery mainly within the scope of the Indian continent, with several features applicable for global use (e.g., NDVI global coverage).

Search. You can acquire free satellite imagery by selecting satellites/sensors, themes/products, and programs/projects. In particular, the platform accumulates images in the following groups: land and terrain, ocean and physical, land and vegetation (local and global NDVI or vegetation fraction).

Download. The free portal provides detailed instructions, yet the data is available for registered users only.

Analysis. Bhuvan offers a number of interactive features like bounding box, mapsheet, tiles, and drawing.

There are many other free medium and high-resolution satellite images sources out there, but we suggest that you start from these top twenty GIS data services for getting the best experience.

Good luck with your search!

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