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GIS (Geographic Information Systems) & Remote Sensing: Remote Sensing

This guide covers resources and tools helpful for people interested in GIS & remote sensing.


Remote sensing is the study and process of detecting and observing the physical characteristics of an area by measuring radiation at a distance. Special cameras, satellites, and aircrafts collect images, replacing manual ground data collection. There are three types: active sensing produces images via its own signal,  passive sensing relies on natural energy and light waves from the desired target, and microwave sensing functions as a combination of both.

Types of Imaging Spectrums Available

Panchromatic images are captured across the visual spectrum (usually grayscale), allowing for greater spatial resolution at the expense of color differentiation. These images are single-band.

Panchromatic aerial photo vs infrared aerial photo

Sources/Usage: Public Domain

Multispectral images are comprised of several layer bands of different wavelength ranges in one location. Multispectral sensing is a passive remote sensing type, and usually measures red (R), green (G), blue (B), and/or infrared (IR).

 Russia’s Shiveluch Volcano; Landsat 9 captured this image on April 15, 2023, using pan-sharpened bands (6, 5, 4) along WRS-2 Path 98 Row 21.

Sources/Usage: Public Domain

Hyperspectral imaging is similar to multispectral imaging in that it measures several bands of information, but differs in that it processes an image across the continuous electromagnetic spectrum. This type of imaging is not as common as panchromatic or multispectral imaging.

(MRP) is using hyperspectral remote sensing at a variety of scales to characterize rocks and soils in selected areas of Alaska

Sources/Usage: Public Domain  //  Credits: Raymond Kokaly, USGS

Planet Data at UC Berkeley


Planet Labs provides daily satellite images of the Earth’s land surfaces and coastal areas. Natural color, near infra-red, and other multi-channel imagery products are available with 5m, 3.7m and 50cm ground pixel resolution. Images are exportable to GIS systems or can be viewed and analyzed using Planet's website and tools. PlanetScope (3.7m) satellite images are available daily, starting in 2014. SkySat (50cm) images are available for selected areas and time periods, starting in 2016. RapidEye (5m) is from 2009-2020.

Access restricted to UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab faculty, staff, and students. New users must first complete registration formThe UC Berkeley Library manages the license and registrations (5/1/24-4/30/25).


  • PlanetScope ~ 3.7m resolution in four spectral bands: RGB and Near Infrared

  • SkySat archive ~ 50cm resolution imagery older than 6 months (no imagery within the past 6 months)

  • RapidEye archive ~5m resolution imagery archive from 2009 to 2020

  • Basemaps - time series mosaicked products optimized for either visual reflectance (8-bit) or radiometric consistency (16-bit)

  • Planet Stories - a simple tool to provide imagery time-lapse

  • Access to imagery via an API, web applications or GIS integrations

For more information about Planet, see and the Planet documentation portal.


Please visit Planet University for events opportunities and online trainings and Planet Community to post questions, share ideas, and connect with others using Planet. 


For journal articles, use the following citation:

  • Planet Team (20xx). Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA

For figure captions, use...

  • “Image Ⓒ[year of capture], Planet Labs PBC.”

Many thanks to Amy Work, GIS Librarian at UC San Diego, for providing content for this guide section on Planet Data. 

Imaging Types

Type Years Bands Spatial Res. (MS) Spatial Res. (Pan) Scene Size Cost


1960-1972   6-40 ft     $$$
Spot 1 1986-2003 3 (GR[NIR]) 20 m  x  20 m 10 m  x  10 m  60 km


Spot 2 1990-2009 3 (GR[NIR]) 20 m  x  20 m 10 m  x  10 m 60 km $$$
Spot 3 1993-1996 3 (GR[NIR]) 20 m  x  20 m 10 m  x  10 m 60 km $$$
Spot 4 1998-2013 4(GR[NIR][SWIR]) 20 m  x  20 m 10 m  x  10 m 60 km $$$
Spot-5 2002-2015 4(3,SWIR) 10 m in multispectral mode (20 m on short wave infrared 1.58 – 1.75 µm 2.5 to 5 m 60 km $$$
Spot-6 2012-2024 4(BGR[NIR])  6 m at nadir 1.5 m at nadir 60 km $$$
Spot-7 2014-2024 4(BGR[NIR]) 6 m at nadir 1.5 m at nadir 60 km $$$
GeoEye-1 2008- 4 1.64 m GSD 0.41 m GSD 15.2 km $$$
GeoEye-2 / Worldview-4 2016-2019 4 Nadir: 1.24 m
20° off-nadir: 1.38 m
56° Off-Nadir: 4.00 m
Nadir: 0.31 m
20° off-nadir: 0.34 m
56° Off-Nadir: 1.00 m
13.1 km $$$
WorldView-2 2009- 8 1.8 m GSD (2.4 m at 20º off-nadir) 0.46 m GSD (0.52 m at 20º off-nadir) 16.4 km $$$
WorldView-3 2014- 8 Nadir: 1.24 m
20º off-nadir: 1.38 m
Nadir: 0.31 m, 20º off-nadir: 0.34 m 13.1 km $$$
QuickBird 2001-2015 4

2.62 m (nadir) to 2.90 m (20° off-nadir)

 65 cm (nadir) to 73 cm (20° off-nadir)

16.8 km / 18 km - (Early 2013) $$$
IKONOS 1999-2015 4 Resolution at Nadir 3.28 m Resolution at Nadir    0.80 m 11.3 km at nadir; 13.8 km at 26° off-nadir free
Pleiades-1A/1B 2011- 4 2 m 50 cm panchromatic
50 cm color (pansharpened)
20 km $$$
Landsat 4-5 TM 1982-2012 7 30   185 km


Landsat 4-5 MSS 1972-2013 4 79 km   185 km free
Landsat 7 ETM + 1999- 8 30 m VNIR/SWIR
60 m TIR
15 m 185 km free
Landsat 8 2013- 9 30 m multi-spectral (VIS/NIR/SWIR) 15 m 185 km  x  180 km free
Landsat 9 2021- 11 30 m multi-spectral (VIS/NIR/SWIR)   15 m 190 km  x  180 km free

Sentinel-1 (A,B,C)

2014- 1 (C-band)   5 m 400 km free

Sentinel-2 (A,B)

2015- 13 (VNIR, SWIR) 10 m, 20 m, 60 m   290 km free
Sentinel-3 (A,B) 2016- 21 300m full, 1200m reduced   1270 km free
Sentinel-5P 2017 7 5.5 km  x  3.5 km     free

Purchasing Information

  • Maxar (free): GeoEye-1, IKONOS, Quickbird, WorldView 1-4

  • NASA Earthdata (free): WorldView

  • NOAA CLASS (register)

  • NOAA Data Access Viewer (free): GOES-14, -15, -16, -17,-18, NOAA-15, -18, -19, -20, -21, DSCOVR, Suomi NPP (NOAA/NASA), Jason-3 (CNES owns), DMSP F-16, F-17, F-19, EWS-G1 (Air Force owns, formerly GOES-13)

  • Copernicus Open Access Hub (free): Sentinel 1-5

  • USGS EROS and EarthExplorer (free): Landsat 1-9

  • AIRBUS GeoStorePleiades, Pleiades One, SPOT archive, Spot One

  • LandInfoPleiades 1A / 1B, GeoEye 1, IKONOS, Quickbird, WorldView 1-4, Airbus Elevation 1, 4, Spot 6/7, Rapid Eye

  • Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC)Albedo, Pleiades Neo, SuperView-Neo, WorldView 1-4, Legion, GeoEye-1, Pleiades-1A  / 1B, Pelican, SuperView-1, KOMPSAT- 3 / 3A, QuickBird, Satellogic, Gaofen-2, TripleSat, IKONOS, SkySat, SkySat-C, Jilin-1 (1m), TerraSAR-X, SPOT-6 / 7, Other Satellites (2m-30m)

Satellite Imaging and Orbit Patterns

  1. Geostationary Orbits
    • circling the Earth following Earth's rotation, staying "fixed" over a location
  2. Low Earth Orbits
    • an orbit of altitude less than 1000 km; most commonly used for imaging
  3. Medium Earth Orbits
    • any orbit above an LEO, but beneath the 35000 km limit of geostationary orbits
  4. Polar and Sun Synchronous Orbits
    • a type of LEO traveling vertically around the poles
    • SSOs pass over the same spot at the same time every day
  5. Transfer Orbits
    • a type of shortcut orbit allowing for the fine tuning of a desired eccentricity
  6. Lagrange Points
    • an orbit loosely connected to both the Earth and Sun's gravitational pulls, in order to photograph deep space

GIS & Map Librarian

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Susan Powell
Earth Sciences & Map Library
50 McCone Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
Subjects: Geography

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Special Mentions

Created by Arabella Hafeli Scheler in May 2023. Updated by UC Berkeley Map Librarian. Inspired by blog post "Commercial Satellite Imagery: Types, Resolution, and Pricing" by Rebecca Seifried; Archived text from