With Google Maps, cities, seas and forests are visible down to the smallest detail thanks to satellite images on your home screen. But how do these images actually come about? And are they really from satellites? A geo data strategist from Google explains.

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You probably also use Google Maps regularly as a navigation device to get from A to B. If you’re moving or vacationing in another city, it can be fun and helpful to explore your unfamiliar surroundings using the satellite feature of Google Maps or Google Earth. We have collected 5 more ingenious features in Google Maps for you.

But how do these photos of the cards actually come about and who shoots them?

Matt Manolides, who has worked at Google as a geo data strategist for 14 years, has the answers to these questions.

satellite images? This is behind the photos in Google Maps

The shots from above seen in the program are not from Google itself. They are provided by various service providers. These can be state institutions, research organizations or commercial companies.

In regions where the market for aerial photography is quite large, the photographs are taken from the air, for example from airplanes. If this is not the case, Google’s geo data strategists use satellite images, some of which are of poorer quality than the photos taken with a camera.

How do the individual images become an interactive map?

Once the images have been taken, they are passed on to Google by the third-party providers. With the help of photogrammetry, the individual images are combined into a map. Thanks to state-of-the-art technology such as machine learning, the quality of the images can be further improved and the placement made precise.

Cities change and therefore the aerial photos have to be updated regularly. In large cities this happens about once a year, while in rural areas new images are only added every 3 years.

What is behind the mysterious sightings in Google Maps?

Questionable objects such as mysterious symbols or supposed UFOs are often discovered in Google Maps. According to Matt, there is a very simple explanation for this. Slight overlaps or poor quality of the images can lead to optical illusions. Also, the reflection of the sun can cause some objects to look oddly white and shiny.

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