Taking photos from orbiting satellites, also known as "tasking," is a practice among many Earth Observation [EO] data providers.

After seeing some comments on Twitter, we wanted to outline the value of tasking satellites and how SkyWatch's platform EarthCache can help you take amazing photos on Earth from space. In this article, we'll define tasking, its benefits, how SkyWatch helps you access tasking satellites and show some examples of incredible imagery.

If you have questions about satellite imagery, we encourage you to Tweet your question with our new hashtag: #askskywatch. We'll answer your questions through our blogs, videos or a conversation!

How tasking satellites can help you capture amazing photos

What are Tasking Satellites?

Tasking is “ordering” new satellite imagery from a specific satellite. To task a satellite, coordinates of an area of interest (AOI), time frame and interval are sent to the satellite provider. The satellite will capture an image of that area during the specified time period, weather permitting. The “tasked” image is then provided to the customer in their specified output format. The available outputs are based on the satellite’s capabilities. Tasking satellite imagery provides a customized experience where you can specify the exact place, time frame, resolution and amount of KM covered in the imagery. 

Tasking satellites can be used for various purposes, such as monitoring environmental conditions, tracking weather patterns, or studying the effects of climate change. They can also monitor human activity, such as mapping urban areas or measuring traffic congestion. In addition, tasking satellites can be used for communications, such as providing coverage for cell phones or broadcasting television signals.

There are different types of tasking satellites, each designed to perform a specific function. However, all tasking satellites share common features, such as the ability to receive commands from ground controllers and transmit data back to Earth.

Utility Use Case Electricity
©2022 Vexcel Imaging US, Inc.

Benefits of Using SkyWatch for Tasking Satellites

SkyWatch's mission is to democratize earth observation [EO] data, and through our platform TerraStream, we have a strong network of data providers that can meet commercial needs for satellite imagery. TerraStream is a platform for industry-leading providers to sell EO data, and EarthCache is a platform to buy EO data. On EarthCache, you can purchase archival data or task a satellite of your desired AOI. 

Here are just a few of the benefits of using our services:

  1. Access to high-quality imagery. When you task a satellite through EarthCache, you'll have access to some of the highest-quality imagery available. This means you'll be able to capture stunning shots that would otherwise be impossible to get.
  1. Access to historical imagery. Archival data or images captured by others are available in the EarthCache database. If there is imagery that fits your needs for a project, you don't have to task a satellite to get it; you can purchase what is available. 
  1. Affordable pricing. We understand that not everyone has an unlimited budget for their projects, but that shouldn't be a barrier to accessing valuable data.
  2. Personalized service. When you work with SkyWatch, you'll receive personalized attention and service throughout the process. We'll work with you to get the data you need for your analysis.

Types of Images You Can Capture Through SkyWatch's Solutions

Here are some examples of amazing imagery by industry-leading providers. 

Tips for Tasking Strong Imagery

Even with the best technology in orbit, taking photos from space can have nuances.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of tasking satellites:

  1. Check the weather conditions before scheduling your tasking. Avoiding a storm or cloudy days will strengthen your results. 
  1. Understand what data you need to get the right satellites to capture your data. Different satellites have different resolutions and image types (near-infrared, etc.), so be sure to select the outputs that will give you the results you're looking for. If you're unsure where to start, check out our Ultimate Satellite Imagery Guide
  1. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Latency can vary based on the size of your AOI, resolution type and re-visit rates necessary for your imagery. Give yourself a buffer so you can meet your project needs on time. 
  2. Follow all instructions provided by SkyWatch carefully. This will ensure that your tasking goes smoothly and that you get the best images.


SkyWatch can be a great source for those who want to capture meaningful data. Tasking satellites brings customization to a new level. If you're looking to monitor an area for object detection, object clarification, event detection or change detection, tasking satellites can be a great method. 

For more answers to your questions about the world of Earth Observation, tweet your question with #askskywatch.

It can be difficult to picture using satellite imagery in different industries, but Earth Observation is a tool that can be used to help solve problems in our world, no matter how abstract.

Let's explore how satellite imagery is used in a utility use case.

The goal of using satellite imagery in the utility industry is to help monitor assets, vegetation, and third-party interference. Satellite data is a hands-off and detailed method to streamline compliance efforts. 

Traditionally, monitoring assets means sending employees to various locations and inspecting sites for quality checks. Continuous monitoring with satellite imagery can limit physical visits, saving the employer time and resources. With medium, high and very high resolution data, organizations can detect a change in an area of interest (AOI) and use AI methods, like tip and cue, to take a closer look at the problem before taking action. 

Here are two practical examples of how companies in the utility industry can use satellite imagery.


Wires and transformers are vulnerable to third-party interference and can impact their environment if broken or tampered with. 

With satellite imagery and a tip and cue method, organizations can continuously monitor vegetation and right-of-ways with free low-resolution imagery. For example, when vegetation height or extent exceeds a threshold value, the maintenance/forestry group will be notified of the problem area. From there, they can cue up high-resolution imagery to get a better idea of what is happening and then decide if it is worth sending out arborists. If arborists are needed to visit a site, they will know exactly where to go and how large of an area they will need to work with. This allows utility operators to be more effective with their workforce and proactive with their right-of-way management.  By decreasing the possibility of encroaching vegetation altogether, operators will lessen the likelihood of a power outage, avoiding operational and financial implications. 

Utility Use Case Electricity
©2022 Vexcel Imaging US, Inc.

Monitoring vegetation growth can help electric companies reduce risk by helping them stay on top of maintenance and avoid outages or, worse, wildfires. Using recent imagery can optimize operations. It will help establish where, when and how often vegetation needs to be trimmed back and identify third-party interference without in-person monitoring—saving power producers more time and money. while also increasing their reputation and reliability with clients. 

Aside from the savings, consistent satellite monitoring increases reliability with clients. Reliability is key for most utility companies, building your reputation as efficient and trustworthy.

Using satellite imagery to monitor other mechanisms, such as solar panels, explore similar themes:

  1. Identify all the objects in an AOI you are looking to monitor
  2. Measuring its environment to detect changes 
  3. Take action quickly when changes are detected

Why not just send someone out to check on these assets in person?

Using satellite imagery over employees to monitor physical spaces reduces risks and costs for the employer. The ability to visit grounds that you know need attention will save costs to get equipment and people out on the field. 

Utility Use Case, Vexcel image with power lines
©2022 Vexcel Imaging US, Inc.

Oil & Gas

Underground utilities such as water, oil, and gas often use mapping for underground lines and supportive structures. Satellite data is a cost-effective and detailed method of mapping. Many specialists will use satellite imagery of the desired AOI to map the site and then shift to monitoring practices to monitor the land during construction. If any unplanned changes happen during construction, they can be addressed before further damage is done. 

Beyond third-party interference or vegetation, monitoring oil and gas sites can also support compliance efforts.

In many industries, oil and gas companies must meet industry safety standards. Remote sensing provides visual proof of compliance efforts and allows the team to take action quickly in the event of a spill. 

Monitoring pipelines for spills or leaks can help organizations stay ahead of disasters and protect the environment. 

Remote sensing data for the oil and gas industries support:

  1. Mapping the area for construction to ensure a project is not disrupting a vulnerable environment 
  2. Monitoring pipelines for spills or incidents to take action quickly
  3. Easy and visual reporting structures for compliance
Oil& Gas utility use case

For other ideas, read our article The potential for Earth Observation to reduce risk in the Oil & Gas industry.

These are just a few examples of how to use remote sensing data in the Utility Industry. 

If you’re interested in exploring the world of satellite data, please chat with us.

Commercial Real Estate Investments

Commercial real estate developers are looking at long time horizons. They're developing buildings that are going to be only in place in a few years, if not decades and hypothetically operational for decades to come.

You're looking at a property to ultimately build something on, and you want to make sure it's going to be around for the next few decades.

For example, if you are trying to build a commercial real estate development on Miami Beach, how do you know that Miami Beach coastline will be the same in 10 years time as it is today?

As a commercial real estate developer, you'd want to know that your facility is safe for the next X number of years.

If you look at something like coastal erosion, which is easily able to be monitored via satellite imagery, you could be able to get a good sense as to what your location will look like in 5, 10, 20 years time.

We have many customers monitoring coastal erosion across the globe to understand the impact of climate change and ultimately, from a commercial real estate developers perspective how it would affect their bottom line.

The investment community is always looking for a competitive edge and satellite imagery can actually offer that in space.

Lumber Production, Livestock Tracking and Electric Vehicles

One of the most interesting applications is in something like lumber where you would be able to track specific lumber production across various mills in North America.

We saw this be particularly apparent in 2021 with the influx of lumber pricing and we actually had a lot of customers coming onto the platform for that specific use case

These types of use cases are able to give investors a competitive edge when they're looking at public markets.

Electric vehicle production is another interesting use case where people can see the week by week progression on, say, Tesla factories producing Tesla vehicles.

What this gives a sense of is the downstream implications for that production and how that would influence something like Tesla stock price.

Satellite imagery can be used to track a wide range of commodities and production facilities.

Global Supply Chain Monitoring

Another area being disrupted by satellite imagery is the global supply chain.

What we can do with satellite imagery is monitor each individual part of the supply chain and better understand how it's functioning.

As an example in 2021 there was a significant number of ships outside Long Beach port.

We had an influx of customers asking for data to count the ships to understand how many ships are there, trying to get access to trucks and offload their goods.

These are just a few of the examples of how customers are leveraging observation data.

There is an infinite number of possibilities, and ultimately, what we want to enable here at SkyWatch is for you to look at the Earth a little bit differently from space.

Your First Question When Accessing Satellite Imagery

“What data do you need?” is probably the first question you'll have when logging onto the EarthCache platform.

The first thing to look at is resolution.

We offer a varying spectrum of resolutions on the EarthCache platform all the way from low to high resolution.

Low resolution is about 10m per pixel where you can see some macro changes at a high level and is actually free on the platform.

Medium resolution is about 3m per pixel and you would be able to see divisions between crops for an example, in an agriculture setting.

50cm data is our highest resolution, and you'll be able to count specific cars in a car parking lot.

Your resolution requirements will dictate what your needs will be from a satellite imagery provider and who you should go with.

Tasking A Satellite

Tasking data is one of the most interesting topics in the satellite industry.

There are two ways of ultimately getting satellite imagery.

  1. You can either task a satellite to go collect data in the future, or
  2. You can look in a database of archival imagery or data that has been captured in the past.

 Each of these different data segments have different benefits.

And ultimately when thinking about both, you need to consider your business use case.

For example, a tasking use case is best used in a monitoring situation where you might want to see week over week change.

Archival imagery might be really useful in developing artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms.

No Contract Required

Signing a new contract can always be scary.

But one of the things we believe in at SkyWatch is to never make a customer sign a contract to get onto the platform. Flexibility is ultimately king.

When you sign up for the EarthCache platform, you'll be able to leverage data across varying resolution ranges, all with the easy use of a single credit card.

Often times with other data providers, you'll be locked into a specific data type at a specific price point over a set period of time. Those types of restrictive contractual terms will never be a part of the SkyWatch offering.

Easy Access To The Data - Understand Your Full Workflow

Customers don't realize that they're getting this data to solve a business problem.

And one of the things we really encourage customers to think about is the full workflow of how they're going to use earth observation data in their business.

Ultimately, you're using this data to solve a business need to have a return on investment for your specific industry.

So don't just stop at getting the data.

Think about how you're going to interpret it, use it within a business context and ultimately deliver value to either your internal customers or your end customers as well.

Data delivery is often overlooked, but is actually one of the most important aspects of satellite imagery.

Getting your data delivered in a scalable and repeatable way means that you're able to ultimately focus more on solving your business's problem than trying to download data. Traditionally in the satellite industry, satellite data has been provided via something called file transfer protocol or FTP s.

This is an archaic way of transferring data and frankly results in a really poor customer experience.

On SkyWatch, everything is hosted on AWS.

We provide links to AWS as three buckets for you to easily download your data in a scalable, repeatable and machine to machine way.

Getting Started

There are infinite possibilities with satellite imagery.

Ultimately, it comes down to what satellite imagery will best solve your business use case, how you want to ingest that data and then what the full workflow is within your business to derive the maximum value out of satellite imagery.

If you want to book a consultation with one of our satellite imagery experts feel free to email sales@Skywatch.com

Managing Critical Infrastructure In Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas is an industry where old practices are used for a long period of time and new technologies can be difficult to be introduced.

However, satellite imagery is one of those technologies being introduced into the Oil and Gas industry and changing how operations are being done on a day to day basis.

What we see is critical infrastructure like well pads or pipelines can be monitored using earth observation data in a much more scalable and repeatable way than using other items like drones or helicopters.

Pipeline Monitoring

Where satellite imagery really is useful is by using a wide range of resolutions to ultimately solve a business problem.

As an example, you could use low resolution data to see some macro changes on a pipeline.

You might see those changes, be perhaps worried about something occurring, maybe vegetation encroachment.

Then you would taska high resolution satellite to go capture imagery over that pipeline. That then allows you to see in depth what is actually going on.

Then, if you need to stage an intervention, you know exactly what needs to be done, and can be fully prepared for that in advance of deploying people.

The Human Impact Of Satellite Imagery

This satellite imagery is impactful on both the business's bottom line, but also on the human component, ensuring that humans who are going off into sites are not putting themselves at risk.

This is referred to as “third party interference” - when a third party may be interfering with the pipeline over a stretch of land.Pipeline operators need to know what's going on and they can use satellite imagery across a range of resolutions to accomplish this.

They can use low resolution data to look at the entire pipeline, see any macro changes and then task, high resolution satellite data to see exactly what's going on.

Then they can decide if a human team needs to be deployed.

Real Operational Impact

Oil and Gas operators have a lot of challenges on their day to day work flows.

Using satellite imagery means that they don’t have to use human resources for every application.

Oftentimes what will happen today in Oil and Gas operations is humans are sent to site, say to a well pad to do a visual inspection.

What that will entail is perhaps them taking a company truck, on a poorly maintained or maybe snowy road out to a rural site in say, Western Canada.

There is both a cost from a business perspective on sending a human out there, but also a safety cost where there could be issues in the actual operator getting out there to see if there's a well pad issue.

 Both the human and the safety costs are where satellite imagery really shines.

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