For over a decade, Google Earth has enabled schools, businesses, scientists and hobbyists to get a bird’s eye view of just about anywhere in the world from the comfort of a computer screen. And Google is looking to make it even easier -- and free.
The Mountain View, California, search giant has eliminated the cost for the pro version of Google Earth, which was previously priced at $399 a year. While Google previously offered a free version of the product, it was limited in its feature-set for most users.
Now, anyone can take advantage of Google Earth Pro’s advanced features, which include high-resolution satellite images, the ability to import data sets, record video footage of flyovers, and measure distances using various polygons, to name a few. Google Earth Pro also adds access to additional data sets like state demographics - including population maps and voter turnout - and the location of Fair Trade crop producers.
Before Google Earth, the virtual globe software was known as EarthViewer 3D and was created by Keyhole, Inc., a CIA-funded technology company. Google acquired Keyhole in 2004 and the software was re-released a year later as Google Earth.
Since the acquisition, Google Earth has had numerous features added, including a flight simulator, street view integration and Google Sky, which displays spatial imagery captured by the Hubble telescope and other NASA satellites.
Engineers have also used the software for other applications, including natural gas infrastructure planning, solar panel installations and emergency planning.