A Closer to Look into the Technology Coined “Google Earth on Steroids”
Vancouver’s very own UrtheCast is about to change the way people see the world. The company proudly announced the launch of the world’s first high-definition video platform of Earth later this year. Inspired by the “Eagle Cam”, a program dedicated to capturing the life of an eagle’s nest, UrtheCast will adopt a similar omniscient perspective and provide us with real-time footage from above. Once UrtheCast’s HD cameras have been mounted on the International Space Station, viewers will have the ability to expertly navigate their way around the world – fast forwarding, rewinding, pausing, and zooming up to a remarkable one-meter resolution. Viewers will also have the option to tag, allowing them to locate, mark, and share landmark locations of interest.
Although UrtheCast is a Canadian company, United Kingdom’s Rutherford Appleton must be acknowledged for building the actual cameras. UrtheCast’s role was in developing the software that would allow for streaming video from space. The cameras will be installed on the underside of Russian module of the ISS. In regard to the software, it has been reported that the program uses a form of open source coding.
How It Works
The cameras will orbit the Earth 16 times a day from 350km above ground. Since the orbit spans 52 degrees North and 52 degrees South, UrtheCast believes confidently that the cameras will reach all populated regions of the world. There will be two cameras in total: a medium-resolution and a high-definition. The medium-resolution camera will be used for snapping still-photos from space while the high-definition lens films. To keep the cameras properly directed, both have been calibrated to interact with star trackers, smaller cameras that survey star patterns to calculate the ISS’ bearings.
All of the data captured by the cameras will be compressed using the JPEG2000 algorithm, a lossless form of compression. The transfer of this data will occur routinely every 90 minutes. Once the data has been received, the files will be uncompressed and uploaded. At this point viewers will be able to manipulate the video as they wish.
UrtheCast believes that the capability of their software will allow people to do more than just virtually travel the world. By allowing us to watch world events unfold as they happen, multiple doors open for research and security application. Environmentalists will be given the tools to monitor the natural world just as researchers will be able to track the development of natural disasters. These cameras may even be used agriculturally to document crop growth or by reporters for live-traffic updating. It is without doubt that UrtheCast has contributed a great breed of technology that will benefit the world in more ways than one.