Chester Gillmore, Planet vice president for spacecraft development and manufacturing, and Planet CEO Will Marshall (right) show Planet's new SuperDove satellite at the Planet Explore 2019 conference. Credit: SpaceNews/Debra Werner

SAN FRANCISCO – Planet is preparing to offer 50-centimeter-resolution imagery from its SkySat constellation and updating Dove satellites to gather imagery in eight spectral bands, company executive announced Oct. 15 at Planet Explore, a conference for the firm’s customers, partners, developers and data product end users.

Planet customers were asking for higher resolution than the 72-centimeter-per-pixel imagery coming from Planet’s constellation of 15 SkySats, said Will Marshall, Planet CEO and co-founder. To provide that imagery, Planet intends to move the SkySats to a lower altitude and improve image processing, he added.

One Planet satellite is already moving to a lower orbit for testing.

“If that goes well, we’ll bring down all our 15 SkySat satellites to offer not just rapid-refresh, sub-meter data, but 50 centimeters,” Marshall said. “At 50 centimeters, you can start to see road markings and other things that are important for mapping and certain other applications.”

Planet also is updating its fleet of Dove triple cubesats.

“I’m excited to announce today we are going to an eight-band system,” Marshall said. PlanetScope, the company’s three-meter-resolution imagery gathered by Doves, currently observes four spectral bands. “The near infrared band is what powers agriculture. We are moving PlanetScope from four to five and then to eight bands over the coming months,” he added.

Twenty-six of the new SuperDove satellites are already in orbit. They produce five times as much data as their predecessors, Marshall said. “We’ve commissioned those satellites and we are going to begin to provide access to that data,” he added.

In addition to bolstering agriculture monitoring, spectral data provided by SuperDoves could lead to new machine learning applications.

“We think all these bands will be extremely valuable for machine learning, which is increasingly the main consumer, not human eyes, of our data,” Marshall said. “We think of this as the first imaging product that is designed with artificial intelligence in mind.”

Planet will keep looking for ways to improve its constellation, Marshall said. “Our goal is to improve spectral and temporal resolution to constantly produce the best data to help empower people to make decisions,” he added.

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...