Startup Mapbox Makes Big Satellite Imagery Buy to Take On Google, Here Maps

Mapbox announced the acquisition of three million square kilometers of satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe, one of the largest providers of aerial data. Mapbox is the first customer to buy DigitalGlobe’s data, from a satellite launched last year that gives the closest snapshot to date of the Earth from above.

The companies would not share a price for the purchase. But DigitalGlobe sells its imagery at rates ranging from zero, for nonprofits like the Red Cross, to $20 a kilometer, said Kevin Bullock, the company’s director of product management. In July, Mapbox closed a Series B round of $52.6 million led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, bringing its total funding close to $63 million.

Mapbox builds customizable mapping software for developers, who pay the company per use. It aspires to be the platform of choice for anyone building apps or other technologies embedded with software that needs location data. Its pitch is that it does not sell directly to consumers, so will not demand any consumer data in return. That’s in contrast to other mapping providers, namely Google and Here, Nokia’s former mapping division now owned by a consortium of German car makers.

In aggregate, Mapbox’s new image data covers seven times the size of California. It comes from DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite, which shot into orbit in 2014. The satellite company currently hosts some six billion square kilometers in archived imagery.



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