DigitalGlobe: Successful Synergy

An inside look at DigitalGlobe’s growth and initiatives post GeoEye merger


Before Marcy Steinke joined DigitalGlobe, she surveyed its strengths, as well as the legacy of GeoEye, with which the company had recently merged.

“As I was looking at DigitalGlobe, I knew it had a really strong constellation, with three satellites up there functioning very well,” Steinke said. “Then I looked at GeoEye’s advanced analytics capabilities. Put those two together and it showed capacity for significant growth.”

Now DigitalGlobe’s senior vice president of government relations, Steinke said the merger has been an exciting and successful combination, yielding an advanced and agile satellite constellation, coupled with impressive revisit rates and in-depth analytics.

“Generally when you have a combination of two similar companies you think you’re going to have a lot of overlap,” said Bert Turner, senior vice president of sales for DigitalGlobe. “We’ve been increasingly pleased with the great complimentary synergies.”

A Global Outlook

The growing DigitalGlobe has turned its attention to remaining competitive in the global marketplace—transitioning from a data and imagery provider into an information and insight organization, Turner said.

“We’re moving rapidly into providing answers to our customers versus just giving them the raw materials to work with,” he explained.

Shuttle Endeavour being carried across the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last year. Photo credit: DigitalGlobe

Steinke echoed this intent.

“We are clearly looking at moving beyond providing raw data,” she said. “We’d like to put that on steroids and be able to provide some really great final products.”

On the government side, for example, DigitalGlobe is now in the second year of its Global Enhanced GEOINT Delivery program, which provides U.S. government users with easy and immediate access to the company’s most current, high-resolution imagery. Additionally, the initiative integrates the imagery into the individual agency’s workflow—whether it’s ArcGIS, Google Earth, or a native system.

DigitalGlobe is experiencing commercial imagery expansion in all of its markets, including defense and intelligence, oil, gas, mining, insurance, finance, forestry, and agriculture, Turner said. He added that the company is also seeing regional growth in Russia, India, and Latin America.

Meanwhile, the overall global commercial imagery marketplace is expanding, with an influx of international competition. Steinke said DigitalGlobe seeks equality when competing globally.

“Obviously resolution limits are an issue as we go forward, so we are hoping for a decrease in resolution limits as far as our ability to sell commercial imagery,” she said. “That would put us on par with aerial and other competitors internationally.”

This 2009 photo shows DigitalGlobe’s World-View-2 satellite being built. Photo credit: DigitalGlobe

In May, the company petitioned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to reduce the resolution restrictions for the images DigitalGlobe provides to its commercial customers.

“DigitalGlobe has officially requested NOAA to amend the current resolution restrictions from its WorldView remote sensing space system license to allow DigitalGlobe to sell commercial satellite imagery down to 0.25 meter panchromatic resolution, multi-spectral imagery down to 1 meter resolution and short-wave infrared (SWIR) imagery down to 3 meter resolution,” said Walter Scott, founder and chief technology officer of DigitalGlobe, in a written statement.

It’s uncertain when NOAA will reach a decision on the request, as regulation of licensing can be a slow process, and commercial remote sensing licensing is relatively new. DigitalGlobe also plans to increase the orbit height of GeoEye-1, allowing the company to see a wider area, while obtaining higher-resolution imagery from the rest of its constellation.

An Innovative EcoSystem

DigitalGlobe is investing considerable time and money to co-innovate with many companies around the world in the areas of research and development, according to Turner.

“What I love about our approach right now—what makes it so exciting—is it’s really about an ecosystem,” Turner said. “It’s about leveraging and not having this attitude or perspective that we have to invent everything here. That’s not the case.”

In the last year, the company has acquired geospatial crowdsourcing pioneer TomNod, expanded its partnership with custom map designer MapBox, collaborated with startup analytics software provider Recorded Future, and made a big marketing push for its My DigitalGlobe platform, which is free to all U.S. government employees—to name just a few of the exciting things happening.

Ikonos images taken in 1999 and 2013—both of downtown DC. This comparison was shown recently when DigitalGlobe announced hitting 4 billion sq. km. of imagery in its archive. Photo credit: DigitalGlobe

In addition, the combined company is also better equipped to apply the benefits of satellite imagery to humanitarian issues. For example, the analytics capabilities brought to the table by legacy GeoEye now allow DigitalGlobe to provide even more answers to NGOs, Turner said.

The company recently formed its “Seeing a Better World” team, devoted to proactively reaching out to a select group of NGOs where DigitalGlobe wants to invest and contribute its imagery, analytics, and crowdsourcing expertise. With this new team, DigitalGlobe hopes to replicate efforts such as its partnership with the Satellite Sentinel Project in Africa, and the company’s humanitarian outreach is expected to significantly expand over the next couple of years, Turner said.

Steinke said DigitalGlobe’s business reach would also continue to expand in the near future.

“There will be other combinations of capabilities that we are looking at,” she said. “We are still evaluating what directions are best mixed with our capabilities. There will be growth in other arenas as we go forward in the next five years or so.”


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