5 Benefits of Using Satellite Imagery Over Drones

Using satellite imagery over drones

According to Euroconsult, the global market for commercial Earth observation data and services will reach $8 billion by 2029, up from $4.6 billion in 2019. Understanding when to use satellite imagery over drones is key to making an informed decision when collecting this data type.

Here are 5 benefits of using satellite imagery over drones.


Unlike drones, satellites are fully autonomous. Once in orbit, they rotate around the planet using sophisticated lenses and sensors to image it and transmit data back to the ground.

It is typically easy for someone to purchase commercial satellite imagery by specifying their area of interest (AOI), frequency of image collection, date range, and resolution. When the results are ready, it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It's as simple as that!


Drone surveying may not be appropriate for landscapes that are difficult to navigate on foot or by road. You might think twice before sending a drone to a forest or mountainous area. A natural obstacle can complicate the operation, leading to longer flight times and the risk of equipment loss.

The problem with drones and remote areas is that most drones can't fly too far from the controller, meaning the operator needs to be within a few kilometres to operate the drone.

With satellite images, you don't have to worry about any of that.


Here’s a detail often overlooked when deciding the best way to capture images: 

Sun angle. 

Commercial drones have a flight time of about half an hour, so they might need to be recharged to complete the job. Each full charge takes between 60 to 90 minutes. Because our planet revolves around the sun, the sun's angle will change when the drone can fly again.

You don't have to worry if you're just recording some footage.

But if you’re a GIS manager who needs to conduct geospatial analysis, you’ll have to account for different elevations and sun angles when processing your image. 

One of the benefits of using satellites over drones is consistency, so you don’t have to spend extra time making corrections to your images. 

The benefit of using satellites over drones is consistency, so you don't have to spend time correcting your images.

why satellite imagery over drones are effective


Scalability is one of the biggest differences between satellites and drones when capturing images.

No wonder satellites are often preferred for imaging large areas since they are easier to use, work well in remote locations, and offer more consistency.

The use of satellite imagery is also more appropriate for customers interested in change detection. Instead of booking a drone flight every time, you can use a platform like EarthCache to automate satellite imagery collection.


Unlike aerial drone images, satellite imagery prices vary based on the area size, resolution, and when it is captured. For instance, a medium-resolution archive image can cost $2.50/km2, while a high-resolution new image, which must still be captured, can cost $12/km2.

In addition to collecting processed data, a satellite can take high-resolution images of the same area covered by a drone for $300.

Since the cost of sending satellites into space is lower than ever, more space companies are building their constellations, resulting in lower prices.

When Should You Use a Drone?

There are a few situations when drones can be a better alternative to satellite imagery.

You should consider the level of detail you need. High-resolution satellites can give you a good view of the top of a building, but if you need more granularity to see small objects, a drone is best.

The angle at which an image is captured can also be controlled with drones. Satellite images can look flat, but this is changing with more sophisticated satellites.

If you need images urgently, drones are a better option than satellites. Clouds can cover parts of your area of interest, and you can't do much about it except request new satellite images.

Capture Satellite Images With EarthCache

Waterloo-based SkyWatch connects remote sensing managers and developers with one of the world's largest networks of satellite imagery providers.

Once you sign up, you'll have access to multiple data providers, such as Planet and Airbus, all under one roof. It's like Amazon for satellite imagery!

You don't have to worry about complicated data agreements and lengthy negotiations with EarthCache. It is also risk-free since there are no subscription fees; you only pay when you receive the images.
Create your prototype for free using open data sources if you're building an application using EarthCache API.

Request access to EarthCache; we’ll contact you to assess your needs.

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