One of the things that has transformed and is transforming many industries is the availability of high resolution digital satellite photography. This used to be a government preserve, primarily defence. Commercial Earth observation started around 1996. In the last decade the two companies that have played a leading role in the commercial application of satellite and other types of high resolution photography are Digital Globe and GeoEye, who have just announced that the boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved a merger agreement.
GeoEye is best known for GeoEye-1, claimed to be the world's highest resolution commercial earth-imaging satellite, launched September, 2008. GeoEye-1 is able to simultaneously acquire 0.41-meter panchromatic and 1.65-meter multispectral imagery. GeoEye-2 is scheduled to be launched in early 2013.
DigitalGlobe owns and operates a constellation of high-resolution commercial earth imaging satellites, QuickBird (November, 2000), WorldView-1 (September, 2007) and WorldView-2 (October, 2009). WorldView-3 is expected to be launched in 2014. Digital Globe also provides aerial wall-to-wall coverage at 30 cm resolution (Clear30) of the continental United States and Western Europe.