Near Space Labs gathers imagery with a resolution of 10 centimeters per pixel from sensors on high-altitude balloons. Credit: Near Space Labs

SAN FRANCISCO – Near Space Labs announced plans Sept. 7 to provide free high-resolution Earth imagery to researchers, universities and nonprofit organizations.

Brooklyn-based NSL will share 10-centimeter-resolution imagery of the most populous U.S. cities over a period of 12 months through its Community Resilience & Innovation Earth Imagery Grant program.

The five-year old startup established the grant program to “provide the most recent and high-quality data on the market not only to our enterprise customers, but to those doing equally important work for the betterment of our overall society,” Rema Matevosyan, NSL co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “It is our hope that our ability to extend access of our imagery database to a broader set of researchers and those who have limited budget will allow them to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their analyses as they work to identify key issues and develop solutions to the challenges we face every day within our cities, suburbs and rural areas.”

NSL gathers Earth imagery with sensors mounted on Swifty high-altitude balloons. The latest model, which the news release refers to as Swifty 3 stratospheric imaging robots,” operate at altitudes as high as 26,000 meters and gather imagery covering 400 to 1,000 square kilometers per flight.

To qualify for the NSL grants, applicants must be based in the United States. Grant recipients will access images through NSL’s XYZ Tile Application Programming Interface.

“Ideal projects will seek to develop a cohesive understanding of urban change and how it may impact society as a whole and the specific needs of local communities,” according to the news release.

Customers rely on NSL imagery to assess insurance claims and risks, respond to natural disasters, monitor infrastructure including roads and bridges, and observe environmental conditions.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...