How Often Is Google Earth Updated?

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googleearth thumb   How Often Is Google Earth Updated?When the original Earth program was re-launched in 2005 under the Google brand, there was a lot of interest in it. Being able to view satellite imagery of pretty much anywhere in the world was cool.

However, as time went on, I think we all noticed that buildings in our areas which were knocked down years ago still appeared in the program.

As it happened, Google Earth wasn’t updated instantly, so despite what YouTube videos would have you believe, you can’t spy on your neighbours or track the movement of Chinese naval vessels.

So just how often is Google Earth updated? Well, that depends on a few variables.

Location

As with all mainstream software programs, Google Earth aims to serve the masses. Thus, they invest their funding into keeping the most frequently searched and viewed areas updated. This variable is the most definitive in how often an area is updated in Google Earth.

3dnewyork thumb   How Often Is Google Earth Updated?

So for example, New York will be updated quite regularly and in high detail using low flying aircraft to get good resolution imagery. They may also add an extra layer to popular locations which makes prominent buildings 3D. You can see this in the image above.

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On the other side of the same coin, in answer to the question how often is Google Earth updated, you can bet your life savings that the imagery of the remote Irish countryside or Russian mountain ranges are still in very low resolution and have never been updated from their original state.

Security

Another reason location might come into play is for security reasons. Sensitive military bases and installations are often blurred and not updated by Google when requested by world governments. Area 51 in the Nevada desert is one which springs to mind, and the Royal Stables at The Hague in The Netherlands is another, as seen below.

800px Royal Stables   How Often Is Google Earth Updated?

Also, Google may cease updating a certain area if they get wind of their imagery being used for military intelligence or crime. For example, Hamas have been rumoured to use Google Earth to pinpoint rocket strikes at Israel from the Gaza strip.

Finally, “Ëśno fly’ zones and conflict zones won’t be updated with high resolution pictures from aircraft because it’s not allowed for security reasons. For example, you won’t be able to find detailed imagery of Southern Afghanistan or Iraqi mountains due to the current conflicts. All you’ll get are old, blurry satellite images.

Google is sensitive as to how their software is used, as any company would be, and have taken action to prevent it being used in malicious ways.

The Time Factor in Determining How Often Google Earth is Updated

As I’ve referred to in the above paragraphs, the low level, high resolution imagery on Google Earth, such as that of cities and infrastructure is not done by satellites as many people believe. When you zoom in on Google Earth, to the point where you can see your car very clearly parked on your driveway, then that’s the work of aerial photography. If however, your house is a barely discernible brown blob amidst a landscape of psychedelic blurs, then that’s the work of a satellite suspended above the Equator.

Obviously, it takes time for these aircraft to run those photography update missions. They are also run by a number of private companies, not by Google itself, so getting all these images pieced together takes even more time. Finally, the databases cannot be updated until a new version of Google Earth is released which happens every few months. Thus, it takes more time.

On average, imagery of an area is updated every 1-3 years. Some areas are updated more regularly, others have never been updated. It all boils down to where you live and how important Google reckons it is that your area is given fresh images. Most urban areas will have been updated at least once since 2005.

What about your area on Google Earth?  Is it regularly updated or are you just a big blurry blob?  Let us know in the comments.

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25 Comments - Write a Comment

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JK III

1 to 3 years! Now suddenly Google Earth seems less fun :(

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Nick

My house doesn’t even exist according to Google Earth. The dirt lot is shown, but the house itself is nowhere to be seen. But, my house was only built two years ago, so I guess it makes sense :P

prattmic

Half of my neighborhood isn’t even built in my image. Google Earth says it is from Feb 2002, which sounds about right.

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Jonas

Very good article :) Can I translate it into French for my blog (xoodeo.com) ?

Dean Sherwin

Hi Jonas,

MUO policy is to not allow reprints of articles. However, if you wish to have it reviewed on a case basis if you think you site will bring traffic, I suggest contacting Aibek, Mark or Jackson.

Thanks.
Dean.

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D

When indulging a curious moment, I was using google earth around the beverly hills area. How much do some celebrities pay to have google earth blur their estates? There were some that were definitely being blurred to the general public. Can’t say I don’t blame them.

vpike.com is eerie. They get down to street level and take a picture of your neighborhood. They don’t specify which house is a specific address so I onl;y hope I don’t live across the street someone is looking for!

Dean Sherwin

I’ve never heard of celebrities paying to have their estates blurred. Bu I guess it makes sense – they wouldn’t want the tabloids etc… having a birds eye view of their property and what they own etc…

Interesting.

Thanks D!

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Peret

A friend and I were playing around with GOogle Earth one night and looking for our homes….obviously done by a car driving by. Followed the camera pics down my road, until they got to the intersection just before my home…literally I could stand in my yard and throw a stone and hit the traffic light… instead of following the main road past my house, they hooked a left, and went off into the back remote area….and came out on the other side of my home and continued on the main road. I felt so gyped… they went right around my home!!!! I’m not there!

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Ian

Google has the only photographs of Arkansas, period, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

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DeLarge

My city (Monterrey, Mexico) just got street view, meaning a great update on maps and google earth. Google earth history feature shows updates every 2-3 years, average, not bad for a non-US City.

Dean Sherwin

I’m still waiting for Street View to come to Dublin. Will be cool.

Although I’ve used it to show relatives places they used to live when they were in the US. It’s a really cool feature. Let;s hope Google keep expanding it!

– Dean.

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Ylod Sean

Well it would be impossible, even for Google, to offer fresh images of every corner of the world. It makes sense to update more frequently the high searched areas, like New York

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Radhika

Google Earth loosing importance,,,not updating

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Dustin Harper

My town is fairly small, but it has been updated at least within the past 4-5 years. Not that great, but a lot better than I expected. Street view is funny, though. My town is considered a “gas station town”… And, that’s exactly what the Google car did. Pulled into town, got gas, and left. :)

I do notice that some high security areas (missile complexes, nuclear enrichment facilities, secret experiment area… Not too secret to locals, but supposed to be) aren’t blurry. Probably because they don’t show anything… Hanford, WA (nuclear fuel for weapons); Umatilla, OR (chemical weapons storage); NIKE missiles, Boeing test area for UAV’s, bombing range, etc…. Not new images, but somewhat recent.

Of course, I’m not sure about the accuracy. My brother in law’s grass was green… Not sure if that was in this century or last…. :D

Dean Sherwin

Hi,

From researching the topic, and trust me its a VERY grey area, Google only seem to distort images which could be used aggressively by others especially paramilitaries and terrorists.

Arial images of things such as testing sites could easily be gotten my your or I by building a $250 homemade UAV or aerial photography balloon like those made by MIT.

So I think they only blur the really sensitive areas.

-Dean

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Bob H

My brother lives in the state of Washington and his subdivision used to be on Google Earth, but the current picture reverted to a pre-subdivision bulldozed piece of ground over three years ago and has never returned. The “Historical Imagery” feature now available allows him to go back to when GE did show his house, but the current view shows nothing at all. Attempts to bring this to the attention of GE via their web site have been to no avail.

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FoxtrotRU

Very nice article!
Always thought that Google update images depending on total views, search and zooms of areas.
For me though it is very strange that one picture of Baikal Lake in Russia has never been updated – you can see something like a shoe lace on it 82 km long and 2km wide ;) 109,1025377866271E 53,85331381911297N

Dean Sherwin

Theres loads of places all over Russia and China which are never updated. Many people think it; because they have unreported submarines or installations there and their governments told them to ‘stay away’. And Google does have to tread lightly. They’re already backing out of China it would seem due to censorship, the last thing they need is to annoy the Kremlin.

Anyway, I’d say it just because the areas are too remote and all these images which arouse suspicious are just shadows, ridges etc…

– Dean.

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Tintent

I’ve always found this a little strange. I live in a little town in SE Scotland. Google has never given us a picture we could make anything of. It’s a satellite image, so has the “landscape of psychedelic blurs” you describe above but to add further insult, the picture was taken on a cloudy day!!!

For years us locals had a theory that the lack of definition had something to do with the Nuclear Power Station just two minutes down the road. This theory was then blown apart by that other large American computer company who produced an aerial image I can almost read my number plate on (and that’s when the car’s parked outside the power station!).

I guess we’re just really boring!!

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Bernd

I live in my house (in Germany) since 8 years and still the area is urban in google. According to your report I am at a very remote place. But that is not true.

Dean Sherwin

What is the population of your area? Maybe not many people there use Google Earth (if it;s an older demographic) so there isn’t demand despite it being an urban area?

Or maybe Google just haven’t got around to it yet. In such large operations, there will always be places over looked unfortunately.

– Dean.

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AJ

I have a place in Bulgaria, start build was 2006, still just a big field, looking forward to a new look

AJ

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Saba Kamran

Great article!! I’m a fan of makeuseof.. :) I’m just a blob coz im from Pakistan. :p

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Bernard Cooper

I see that you have Wrexham UK as in ‘Clwyd’. The county of Clwyd was abolished some ten years ago and Wrexham is a County Borough (Unitary ~Authority).

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John Stewart

I live in a small village called Hochstetten in south west Germany. A foot bridge over the local main road was opened in 2003 but the current Google Earth image of our village does not show the bridge. So, the current image is at least seven years old – quite out of date it would seem.

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