‘World first’ Digital Earth Australia announced in Federal Budget

By on 10 May, 2017

Hidden deep within last night’s Australian Federal Budget were details for establishing a new service to deliver updated satellite imagery to all Australians.

Known as Digital Earth Australia (DEA), the new initiative will receive $15.3 million of federal funding over the next two years to deliver satellite imagery over the entirety of the continent. When complete, it promises to provide 10 metre resolution imagery nationwide, updated every five days. It will also provide access to this advanced remote sensing data through a “publicly available, free platform.”

Digital Earth Australia will build on the globally recognised platform, the Australian Geoscience Data Cube, which was the winner of the 2016 Content Platform of the Year at the Geospatial World Leadership Awards. The Data Cube was developed as a partnership between Geoscience Australia, CSIRO and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), and supported National Computational Infrastructure (NCI).

DEA promises to provide updated imagery for every 10 square metres of Australia every five days.

To begin, Digital Earth Australia will use almost three decades of existing satellite imagery to access insights across the Australian continent. When fully operational, it will openly provide updated imagery and insights for every 10 square metres of Australia every five days- a world first for a national government.

Geoscience Australia detailed a number other valuable datasets that will be included in the DEA, including water observations, fractional cover (FC), a normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI), an intertidal extents model (ITEM) and surface reflectance. Together these datasets will better inform the likes of agriculture, environmental monitoring, coastal erosion studies and land research.

Sagar, S., Roberts, D., Bala, B., Lymburner, L., 2017. Extracting the intertidal extent and topography of the Australian coastline from a 28 year time series of Landsat observations. Remote Sensing of Environment 195, 153–169.

Geoscience Australia’s newly appointed CEO, Dr James Johnson, said Digital Earth Australia will make it quicker and easier to access Earth observation satellite data.

“Satellites have continually taken images of the Australian continent for decades, recording information about our land and water resources.” Dr Johnson explained. “This is currently warehoused in difficult to access government stores.”

“Digital Earth Australia will provide reliable, standardised access to this data to build new commercial applications. This will support Australia’s developing digital economy, and help to generate new jobs and business opportunities, particularly for small to medium enterprises.

“As a publicly available, free platform, Digital Earth Australia will open up new opportunities for a range of industries across the country, including agriculture, environment, mining and scientific research.”


The Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Minister, Matt Canavan, describes Digital Earth Australia as a “world first.”

“When fully operating, Digital Earth Australia will provide new information for every 10 metre square of Australia, every five days, enabling insights into issues such as water availability, the development of our regions and cities and the productivity of agricultural land.

“Digital Earth Australia is a world first analysis platform for satellite imagery and other Earth observations.”

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