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Posted on June 4th, 2024

Our Changing Landscape – 2024 Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with a time series of medium-resolution PlanetScope satellite imagery. The PlanetScope constellation dates back to 2016 and collects hundreds of millions of square kilometers of four and eight-band 3-meter imagery daily! In May, we looked at the dormant Agua volcano in Guatemala where a wildfire raged in the area. For the June edition of this series, we are headed to Baltimore, Maryland to the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that collapsed March 26th after a cargo ship named Dali lost power and crashed into it.

The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope image collected over the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland on March 21, 29 and 30 plus April 7, 2024. In this four-image animation, you can see the tragic fate of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. In the March 29th image, the bridge has shattered into multiple large pieces and fell into the Chesapeake Bay – the ship, Dali, is also still trapped under the bridge. By April 7th, you can see multiple new vessels are in place; this is the army of first responders whose job will be dismantling the wreckage before the rebuild can begin. As a former resident of Baltimore (this is Brock here), my thoughts are with the community as they recover from this tragedy. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2024)

PlanetScope is a constellation of more than 240 microsats referred to individually as Doves. Each Dove is able to collect up to 20,000 square kilometers (sq km) per day of 3-meter (m) 4-band multispectral (i.e. blue, green, red and near-infrared [NIR]) imagery; and newly launched SuperDoves collect 8-band multispectral adding in valuable red-edge spectral data. Across the constellation, PlanetScope is archiving more than 200 million sq km of medium-resolution imagery a day, making it the go to source for daily imagery over most locations. This massive archive dates back to 2016, offering the most complete and continuous record of spatial data on the planet since the start of the constellation’s ongoing launch schedule. Collecting 3-meter multispectral imagery is the equivalent of ‘high-resolution’ multispectral data imaged by a 75-centimer (cm) satellite (as this satellite would feature 75-cm panchromatic and 3-m multispectral), making PlanetScope an extremely competitively priced option at just $2.25 per sq km. With well registered images and nearly daily collections of most locations, PlanetScope is the ideal imagery source for this current-events focused series, Our Changing Landscape.

March 2024 Collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland

The Francis Scott Key Bridge (loosely called the Key Bridge or Beltway Bridge) was a steel arch continuous through truss bridge that spanned the lower Patapsco River and outer Baltimore Harbor/Port in Maryland. The bridge opened March 23, 1977, and carried the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695 or I-695) between Dundalk in Baltimore County and Hawkins Point, a neighborhood in Baltimore, while briefly passing through Anne Arundel County. Initially named the Outer Harbor Crossing, the bridge was renamed in 1976 for poet Francis Scott Key (1779–1843), the author of the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the American national anthem.

At 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 26, a cargo ship named Dali lost power and crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, hitting its support columns. The 984-foot-long ship was leaving Baltimore headed to Sri Lanka at the time of the crash. Six drivers and construction workers fell into the water below during the collapse. Two were found alive in the depths of the water; two were found dead; two remain missing (at the time of drafting this article).

The Maryland Transportation Authority first responder radio traffic captured a dispatcher putting out a call that the ship, Dali, had lost its steering ability and officers were told to stop all traffic. In less than two minutes, officers had halted traffic on the span, the AP reported. An officer then radioed he was going to drive onto the bridge to notify the construction crew. But seconds later, a frantic officer radioed that the bridge had collapsed. A video that shows the collapse has been posted here.

If you would like to find out more about using 3-meter PlanetScope imagery for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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