You may be wondering what the next feature added to Google Earth and Google Maps will be? It might just be a 3D map of the entire planet thanks to a pair of German satellites. Germany recently launched a pair of satellites into space to record a 3D map of every piece of our planet, but unlike the Google Earth satellites, the satellites won’t be snapping photos, they’ll be recording geographical features.
The two German satellites, TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X, will fly slightly apart in a helix motion and record how long it takes for a signal to reach earth and then bounce back to the satellite. The satellites don’t invade anyone’s privacy and only capture geographical data such as where there are mountains, ditches, oceans, etc, and how high or deep they are.
With the signal data accurate to about seven feet, the precise geographical data will be very useful to both the science community and the commercial organizations. For science and government purposes, the data can be used to predict how a severe storm might affect an area, such as which areas are most prone to flooding or where it would be safest to go during a crisis situation. Commercial companies will also benefit from this data in ways such as helping improve the safety of aircraft navigation, or just finding the best mountains to climb or snowboard.
The full scan of the planet is scheduled to be complete sometime in 2014 and hopefully will be available for public and commercial use soon after.