Mapbox imagery

Mapbox imagery data includes satellite and aerial imagery that developers can use for a variety of applications, both visual and analytical. This data is stored in Mapbox-hosted raster tilesets.

Data for these raster tilesets comes from a variety of commercial providers, as well as open data from NASA, USGS, and others. To learn more about individual raster tilesets, including information about data and updates, see our reference documentation for these imagery tilesets:

This guide provides an overview of how Mapbox imagery works, and how you can use Mapbox imagery in your next project.

Sakurajima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan

How imagery works

Mapbox satellite and aerial imagery comes from a variety of sources as raster data and is processed and composited together by our raster team. Imagery is color-corrected (in other words, the raw imagery is adjusted so the final image looks realistic) and blended together into a single raster tileset.

Raster data

All satellite and aerial imagery is stored in raster format. Rasters are a pixel-based data format that efficiently represent continuous surfaces. Information in a raster is stored in a grid structure with each unit of information, or pixel, having the same size and shape but varying in value. Digital photographs, orthophotography, and satellite images are all stored in this format.

Raster formats are well-suited to analyses that look at change over space and time because each data value has an accessible location based on the grid. This allows us to access the same geographic location in two or more different rasters and compare their values.

Satellite rasters

When Earth-observing satellites take a picture, they read and record reflectance values collected from wavelengths along the electromagnetic spectrum.

Source: “Comparison of wavelength, frequency and energy for the electromagnetic spectrum.” Digital image. The Electromagnetic Spectrum. March 2013. Accessed June 2017.

The human eye can only see a small part of the light-energy that is the electromagnetic spectrum. This is called visible light, because our vision evolved to be most sensitive where the sun emits the most light, and is broadly restricted to wavelengths that make up what we call red, green, and blue. Satellite sensors perceive a far wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The ability of sensors to collect information outside of our normal range of vision allows us to make visible the previously invisible.

The electromagnetic spectrum has such a wide range it would be impractical for a sensor to collect information from all wavelengths at the same time. Instead, different sensors prioritize the collection of information from different wavelengths of the spectrum. Each section of the spectrum that is captured and categorized by a sensor is categorized as a band of information.

Bands of information vary in size and can be compiled into different types of composite images, each emphasizing a distinct physical property. Mapbox Satellite imagery primarily relies on bands 1, 2, and 3 which make up red, green, and blue visible light.

Use Mapbox imagery

You can use Mapbox imagery directly by using imagery tilesets, or by using styles that contain imagery tilesets as raster sources.

To learn more about uploading your own imagery, see our Satellite imagery getting started guide.

Use Mapbox tilesets

Mapbox imagery is available in the Mapbox Satellite and Mapbox NAIP tilesets, which you can use as raster sources in Mapbox applications, maps, and styles. You can also access imagery tilesets using the Raster Tiles API.

To learn more about how to use these tilesets:

To learn more about using your own imagery with Mapbox, see our Mapbox imagery getting started guide.

Use Mapbox styles

You can also use Mapbox imagery inside several freely available Mapbox-owned styles, including Mapbox Satellite and Mapbox Satellite Streets. These styles use the Mapbox Satellite tileset as a raster data source.

Trace satellite imagery

Mapbox grants users a license to trace imagery for OpenStreetMap. Producing derivative vector tilesets from imagery for commercial purposes is only permitted under a Mapbox Commercial Satellite license. Contact our sales team for more information.

Data updates

Imagery and elevation data is not improved on a set schedule and is updated when and where it becomes available.