Popular outdoor navigation company onX has added frequently updated, high-resolution satellite imagery to its apps to help adventurers, hunters, off-roaders and so on better plan their trips.
Why it matters: It’s the latest example of a space-based technology originally developed for military use — in this case, highly accurate and current satellite imagery — turning into a consumer product, like GPS before it.
Details: Through a partnership with satellite imaging firm Planet, users of onX’s apps — onX Hunt, onX Offroad and onX Backcountry — can access easy-to-read maps with satellite imagery updated every two weeks.
Such imagery can give adventurers a better advance look at the real-world conditions they might encounter on their trip.
OnX is also offering up historical satellite imagery for a given location, enabling users to see useful patterns — for instance, when does a certain mountain pass usually open up in the spring?
How it works: Hikers might use the images to see if a particular hike will get snowy at a certain altitude (better pack the crampons!), while off-roaders can check the mud situation before rolling out (remember those chains!).
And in an ever-changing climate, such imagery can be especially useful when planning trips to areas recently damaged by wildfires or other natural disasters.
What they’re saying: “We have a lot of duck hunters, a lot of individuals who want to understand when the ice is off. And the inverse, we have a lot of skiers who are like, ‘is my pass covered yet? Because I want to get out there and start hammering that as soon as I possibly can,'” Brian Riordan, onX’s senior director of geospatial, tells Axios.
Yes, but: Access to the new feature, called “Recent Imagery,” is only available to onX users with an “Elite” subscription, costing about $100/year.
Plus, there’s some satellite imagery freely available out there — but what’s now accessible via onX is higher resolution, Riordan said.
The big picture: Satellite imagery is emerging as a potentially lucrative consumer business, Axios Space’s Miriam Kramer reports.
The latest satellite systems and technology “are giving researchers, governments and companies more insight into what’s happening on the planet at any given time — and giving the space industry a more robust business line,” Miriam wrote last December.
What’s next: Riordan predicts that an ongoing accuracy war between satellite and aerial imagery providers will result in even better consumer-grade imagery.
“At some point you are going to be at one centimeter-level accuracy at a commercial level, within the next five to 10 years. That’s going to be absolutely just mind-blowing.”
The bottom line: Between frequently updated satellite imagery, space-based emergency communications and good old-fashioned GPS navigation, consumer-grade satellite applications are making outdoors adventuring safer than ever.