The U.S. geospatial industry, which provides satellite imagery and electronic maps, employs as many people as the airline industry and earns as much revenue as the paper industry, according to a December study from the Boston Consulting Group.

The report found the business sector accounts for $73 billion in revenue and 500,000 jobs nationwide. Those jobs include geo-data providers, location-enabled device manufacturers, computer application developers, and geospatial experts and educators. Globally, the industry is valued at $270 billion.

The authors described the geospatial industry as in the midst of a high-growth phase, where the primary customers are defense, regional governments and large businesses. A survey included in the report said 51 percent of business leaders use Web-based mapping services in their company.

The report estimates that geospatial services save businesses $1.4 trillion each year.