TECH

US Lifts Satellite Imaging Restrictions, Meaning Sharper Maps Could Be Possible

16/06/2014 15:15 BST | Updated 16/06/2014 15:59 BST

Google Maps is about to get a lot more useful - or intrusive - depending on your point of view.

The US Department of Commerce has lifted restrictions on the accuracy of satellite images which can be used commercially.

One imaging firm, Digital Globe, says it will now be allowed to sell images with a resolution of just 31cm per pixel - almost twice as sharp as most current satellite pictures seen on sites like Google and Bing Maps.

But in the short term it's not clear what impact this will make. Images which are already as sharp but collected by aircraft are present on both services. While they are often hampered by weather conditions and airspace restrictions, they do allow smaller images to be shown.

Jeffrey Tarr, Digital Globe's chief executive, said: "We are very pleased and appreciative that the US Department of Commerce has made this forward-leaning change to our nation's policy that will fuel innovation, create new high-tech jobs, and advance the nation's commanding lead in this strategically important industry."

Meanwhile Google has recently announce it will purchase a satellite imaging company of its own, Skybox, for around $500 million.