Skip to main content

5 Misconceptions About Satellite Imagery, Part 2

Space & Airborne Systems
May 14, 2024 | 4 MINUTES Read

But like all rapidly evolving technologies, satellite imagery comes with a lot of common misconceptions about how it can be obtained and used. In a recent blog post, we dispelled the top five myths. Now, back by popular demand, here are five more.

Satellite images can help you locate gold and other metals.

Bad news for aspiring pirates: Satellite imagery can’t help you find gold, either as raw ore or buried treasure. Near-infrared bands on commercial satellite imagery can penetrate a few meters into bare sand to detect stone — which is ideal for archaeological endeavors (and Indiana Jones). But they cannot penetrate or detect anything else at greater depths.

Satellite imagery from the sensor is useable as-is
Not unlike wedding photos, most images collected from satellites need some refinement to be useable. Imagery data collected as-is from a sensor can be dark, flat and unusable. Though images as raw pixels are used in some scenarios, they generally need blending and correcting to be properly analyzed.

2D images accurately reflect our 3D world
They say the camera adds 10 pounds … but did you ever wonder why? A 2D image from a camera – whether it’s from your phone or from a satellite in space – distorts and stretches whatever it captures. To get a more accurate view of uneven terrain, L3Harris satellite imagery experts use a process called orthorectification, which ties 2D imagery to the best 3D reference data available. This makes the imagery measurements and appearance more accurate.

Satellites can capture oblique imagery for a fuller picture
Oblique imagery captures objects at an angle of 45 degrees or greater so the sides can be seen. This is useful for viewing the relative height of a feature or sometimes reading large signs or IDs on the sides of buildings, vessels or train cars. Counting large, stacked objects is often easier with oblique imagery as well.

Satellites orbit several hundred kilometers above Earth and are not well suited for collecting oblique imagery. They’re too far away, and too much can get in the way of an accurate image capture. Aerial and drone sources are more often used to collect this type of data.

Satellite imagery can help find missing persons
Satellite imagery can sometimes help locate a person in a remote area who’s using a brightly colored tent, kayak, sleeping bag or even a coat. But most of the time, pixel resolution on even the most detailed satellite imagery cannot discern an individual person easily. In missing person cases, on-site drones are often a better solution.

Talk with our team today about how we can offer commercial satellite imagery for your projects. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at

Related News

GOES-U Satellite over Earth

Press release | 06. 18. 2024

NOAA’s Weather and Environmental Monitoring Satellite Readies for Launch with L3Harris Advanced Imager Onboard

The L3Harris Technologies high-resolution weather instrument, Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), is set to launch June 25 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida onboard NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-U satellite, strengthening the nation’s ability to rapidly detect and monitor the environment and severe weather across the Western Hemisphere.

GOES-U Satellite over Earth

Press release | 06. 18. 2024

NOAA’s Weather and Environmental Monitoring Satellite Readies for Launch with L3Harris Advanced Imager Onboard

A satellite tracks missiles on earth

Press release | 05. 02. 2024

Millennium Space Systems Selects L3Harris to Build Space Development Agency Electro-Optical Infrared Payloads

man in front of bank of computer screens

Press release | 04. 18. 2024

US Space Force Extends Partnership with L3Harris to Enhance Space Domain Awareness

Optical Technician lays on diving board suspended between NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Telescope's mirrors.

Editorial | 04. 17. 2024

L3Harris Team Aligns 10 Mirrors for NASA's Roman Telescope

Womens Global Gathering 2024 Luncheon

Editorial | 04. 10. 2024

L3Harris Hosts Women’s Global Gathering Panel on Shaping the Future Space Workforce