Earth to Google: Satellite
images on your screen
Start on your Windows-based computer, system that runs on standard PCs and
click on an icon of the globe, and you im- commodity servers. It is also easy to use,
mediately whisk yourself into space view- allowing anyone to manipulate a rich map
ing our planet Earth. Then type in an ad- of the Earth composed of imagery and Also available are extra features such as data
dress or location. The planet starts moving feature information. annotation, as on this image of the Lincoln
and you move closer and closer to the Google Earth comes in three ver- Memorial in Washington, D.C.
spot you chose. The next thing you know sions. One is a simple free download; the
you are viewing it from 1,000 ft up. second costs $20 a year; and the third, place—in different images a single pixel
This in a nutshell is the software professional version is $400 a year. If you could cover an area of 1 km2 or as little as
known as Google Earth. The new satellite are anything like me or my colleagues, 6 in2. At the lower resolution, large geo-
imagery-based mapping product combines you will spend countless hours searching graphic features such as mountains and
3D buildings and terrain with mapping ca- the Earth and finding yourself above any lakes are visible. At the highest resolution,
pabilities and Google’s well-known search desired location. It is quite entertaining, detailed features of the Earth or man-
engine. It enables users to fly from space educational, and fun. made items such as buildings and cars
to street-level views to find geographic in- can be seen. The zoom feature provides
formation and explore places around the Google Earth: an indicator that shows when the maxi-
world. It came from Google’s acquisition, Capabilities and features mum resolution is reached.
late last year, of Keyhole, a pioneer in the The images in Google Earth have been •Fly-to Box. To get started in Google
production of 3D digital images. taken from cameras mounted on planes Earth, you must choose a location to view.
Keyhole was the first company to de- and satellites. With its purchase of Key- The Fly-to Box feature lets you type in a
liver a 3D digital model of the entire Earth hole, Google acquired established rela- specific place, such as an address, state, or
via the Internet. Its ground-breaking tech- tionships with a variety of commercial intersection. The software literally flies
nology EarthStream blended advanced providers of aerial and satellite imagery. you right to that point. This is basically
3D graphics and network streaming inno- The image database ranges from several the search mechanism that finds locations
vations to produce a high-performance months to a few years old and is refreshed on a map or provides directions.
periodically. There •Tilt, zoom, and rotate. This feature lets
After you click on the Google Earth icon, this screen viewing the Earth are no real-time im- you manipulate what you are seeing on
from space is the start of using the application. ages available—above the globe. There is a toggle switch that
a mountainous re- can move you close in to the image or far-
gion, for example, ther away (moving the wheel on a mouse
you might go in- can also do this). In the same user inter-
stantly from com- face as the toggle are two circular arrows,
pletely leafy vegeta- one pointing left and the other right.
tion to snow-covered These are used to rotate the image, either
terrain. Also, if you clockwise or counterclockwise. There are
are looking for a also four straight arrows that enable you
newly built home, to move the image up, down, right, or
building, or shop- left, as if on a flat map. And the tilt feature
ping mall, it might lets you tilt the entire image for a 3D ef-
not be there yet, or fect. The degree of tilt depends on how
may have been under far you press the toggle switch.
construction when •Search for business. One application for
the images were Google Earth is to find business locations.
taken. An area on the user interface allows you to
•Resolution. This keep track of the locations you are com-
varies from place to monly seeking. Details about these places
18 AEROSPACE AMERICA/NOVEMBER 2005
can be accessed via the Google Local tool.
This also lets you access the information in
the traditional Google search tool format.
•Virtual Play Button. The Virtual Play
Button is a fun feature. Press it and you
will fly, as if in a helicopter, from one cho-
sen location to another. Moving over the
terrain, you can slow down or go faster
until you reach your destination.
Does this have any redeeming value, or
is it just for fun? Right now I would say it
is mostly for fun; however, other applica-
tion developers could certainly license
this technology and incorporate it into
their simulations or visual applications.
•3D Buildings. In the tilt mode, Google
Earth can create the impression of a full
3D perspective on a given location. It does
so by incorporating detailed modeling in-
formation for buildings or structures in By asking for Kennedy Space Center in Florida, you fly to an image of the Vehicle Assembly Building
38 U.S. cities. By tilting to the correct an- and the road to the two Shuttle launch pads.
gle, you can see a city’s skyline.
•Placemarks. This handy feature lets load the software on a Windows-based gan to build as word spread around cam-
you save the locations you choose and system (Windows 98/ME, 2000, or XP). pus. Page and Brin continued working to
store them in the user interface, in “My It should be based on a Pentium PIII with perfect their technology through the first
Places.” One nice aspect of Placemarks is a minimum of 500 MHz. You need a min- half of 1998. Following a path that would
its ability to call up any of these specific imum of 128 MB of RAM, 200 MB of become a key tenet of the Google way,
places at a later time. In addition, a sim- hard disk space, and a 3D-capable video they bought a terabyte of disks at bargain
ple click of the mouse lets you fly be- card with 16 MB of VRAM. prices and built their own computer
tween the locations you have saved. housings in Page’s dorm room, which be-
•Layers. Layers are different objects that Google: The company came Google’s first data center.
can be added onto an image and are Google was founded by two students from Meanwhile, Brin set up a business of-
among the most powerful features of Stanford University. In January of 1996, fice, and the two began calling on poten-
Google Earth. You can choose among Larry Page and Sergey Brin had begun tial partners who might want to license a
dozens, including streets, schools, rail- collaborating on a search engine called search technology better than any then
roads, stadiums, national parks, borders, BackRub, named for
and other geographical features. These its unique ability to Nature views, such as this one of Niagara Falls, not only demonstrate the
layers are streamed along with the map- analyze the “back power of nature, but also show buildings, roads, and even automobiles.
ping data so that you add them only once. links” pointing to a
They also move with the image. For ex- given Web site. They
ample, if you are moving along the Inter- took on the task of
state highway image, as you traverse the creating a new kind
map the highway is still highlighted and of server environment
outlined. By using Placemarks, individual that used low-end PCs
users can create their own layers and then instead of big, expen-
share them in a community Web site, at sive machines.
Keyhole BBS [http://bbs.keyhole.com]. A year later, their
•Measure tools. These are tools that al- unique approach to
low you to draw a line (using the mouse) link analysis had
and get specific details on the distance earned BackRub a
along that line. This is quite useful and growing reputation.
fun to use. Buzz about the new
To run Google Earth you can down- search technology be-
AEROSPACE AMERICA/NOVEMBER 2005 19
Google Earth has opened the imaging
world to ordinary people. Downloading
the free version can provide hours of en-
tertainment and education. The real value
of this technology, though, can be found
in the professional version by which other
application developers (or those individ-
uals) can incorporate geographic imagery
to specific applications. On the fun side,
it is quite remarkable to check out Paris,
Niagara Falls, Yosemite, Grand Canyon,
or even your local golf course. Remem-
ber, this is version 1 for Google; it will
only get better.
Future versions will include more 3D
buildings, more coverage of other coun-
tries, and more sophisticated layers. These
can be easily incorporated by applications
The tilt function can provide a 3D perspective of buildings in addition to a life-like map of San Francisco. developers in products that provide more
realistic simulations, easier-to-read out-
available. On September 7, 1998, Google plications based on their technology (such put from geographic-intensive images,
opened its door in Menlo Park, Calif. Af- as Google Desktop). Last October, Google and much more. “Beam me down, Scotty”
ter a year, on September 21, 1999, the announced the acquisition of Keyhole. will have a whole new meaning.
beta label came off the Web site and Founded in 2001, Keyhole offered To get your free version, go to http://
Google was off and running. software that let ordinary Internet users earth.google.com. Download the exe-
As most of us know, Google quickly view geographic images collected from cutable, and off you go, exploring the
became the fastest growing search engine satellites and airplanes. The technology Earth, and your neighborhood, as you
in the world. But it did not stop there. relies on a multiterabyte database of map- never have before. John Binder
Page and Brin continued to grow their ping information. This has become the email@example.com
search capabilities and developed new ap- foundation of Google Earth. OnePIN: 2447-6000-4391
NOTED IN BRIEF operating system. VxWin allows Wind River VxWorks and Mi-
crosoft Windows XP Embedded to run on the same host proces-
Ansys (Southpointe, Pa.) [http://www.ansys.com] released ver- sor with no real-time performance penalties or modifications to
sion 10.0 of the complete Ansys suite of software. Its hundreds either system. RTI’s NDDS is an open-architecture real-time
of features and enhancements can be categorized into multi- networking platform that supports the Object Management
physics, mechanics, fluids, electromagnetics, design for six Group’s Data Distribution Service V1.0 standard. NDDS lets net-
sigma, and meshing and modeling. In the fluids area, key worked applications effortlessly connect with multiple data
themes include bidirectional fluid structure interaction capabil- sources for communication of real-time data via an easy-to-
ity, which couples Ansys and CFX solvers, transient analysis, use API.
and turbomachinery pre- and postprocessing. DesignModeler
can find faulty geometry and has new features for gap sizing Lattice3D (Los Altos, Cailf.) [http://www.lattice3d.com] an-
and automatic virtual topology. It also offers new method op- nounced that Seidenader Mechanical Engineering [http://
tions for uniform meshing and renaming of mesh control tools. www.seidenader.de] has published its new spare parts catalog
In coupled field physics, the 22X series of elements has been in CD form—featuring 3D MCAD models as technical illustra-
enhanced to include structural-thermal-electric coupling and tions—made possible by Lattice3D’s XVL ultracompression and
thermoelastic damping. For composites, there is an interface to application technology. German-based Seidenader, a machin-
Vistagy’s FiberSIM. ery manufacturer for the pharmaceutical industry, assembled
the 3,000-part catalog in less than a week. The company’s staff
Real-Time Innovations (RTI, in Santa Clara, Calif.) [http://www. uploaded price lists together with its existing stock of engineer-
rti.com] and Kuka Controls (Augsburg, Germany) announced the ing models into template catalog software provided by CATA-
integration of VxWin with RTI’s open-architecture Network Data LOGcreator, which is integrated with XVL. The template orga-
Distribution Service (NDDS). Out-of-the-box integration enables nized the spare-part information into hyperlinked pages and
developers to take full advantage of VxWin with NDDS without compressed the 3D data; this can reduce the 3D file size to less
having to make modifications or configuration changes to either than 1% of the original CAD document.
20 AEROSPACE AMERICA/NOVEMBER 2005