To commemorate the 90th birth anniversary of Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Wednesday unveiled its most ambitious people-oriented project yet. Bhuvan – Sanskrit for ‘Earth’ – is a remote-sensing 3D image portal that promises to take on the likes of popular virtual globe-mapping applications such as Google Earth and Wikimapia. What’s more, it is technically superior on paper!
The most interested feature for users will be the ability of Bhuvan to zoom far closer than the aerial view from a chopper. While Google Earth restricts zooming to 200 metres and Wikimapia goes up to 50 metres, ISRO’s new technology will be able to render images from up to 10 metres, which means you can easily see details up to a three-floor high building and also add information.
The other important feature is that Bhuvan uses seven satellites (including ISRO’s Resourcesat-1, Cartosat-1 and Cartosat-2) to provide images, as well as time-stamping them for multiple views from the same satellite. This provides images from different angles apart from the default top-down perpendicular view, thus enriching the user experience.
"Thus, Bhuvan represents, in essence, the whole of India on your computer. It enables users to fly from space to street level, to grab, spin and zoom down to any place," says ISRO.
Another significant aspect of Bhuvan is that due to its focus on the Indian sub-continent, it will be able to offer better updates of the images. ISRO will update images for the program once every year, as compared to Google’s 4-year updates. As it keeps updating its database with more recent and higher resolution images, Bhuvan eventually promises to offer real-time data and images.
The information on Bhuvan will be layered, providing the option of viewing filtered data. ISRO plans to integrate inputs from local players like farmers, fishermen, etc who know the area in and out. This is for the primary reason to make it of more use to the general public.
Of course, while this is plenty of cause to celebrate, ISRO’s being an Indian government organisation was stamped in bold letters by the fact that Bhuvan’s portal at http://bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in has been down since morning. Is this an ominous sign of things to come or just that the servers couldn’t handle the tremendous amounts of hits it must have received? We strongly hope it’s the latter…