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Posted on June 2nd, 2020

Our Changing Landscape – Amazon’s SAT1 Fulfillment Center

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 4 and 5-band 3-meter imagery daily! The COVID-19 focus for recent editions of Our Changing Landscape continues as in April we checked out a major shipping port outside of Shanghai, China, and for the May edition we travel to the United States with a look at one of Amazon’s many truck shipping hubs, i.e. the SAT1 Fulfillment Center, located in Schertz, Texas.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over Amazon’s SAT1 Fulfilment Center in Schertz, Texas on December 17, 2019, March 12, March 29, April 13, April 26 and May 10, 2020. In these images, SAT1 can be found right at the center with a large parking lot in the back. In this parking lot, you can see what appears to be a huge upswing in colored shipping containers, which is particularly apparent in the April 26th image. Oh and apologies for some of the less than ideal colors as we had to pick the lowest cloud cover options we could find in evenly spaced time periods! (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2020)

The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation

PlanetScope is a constellation of more than 150 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 5-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 $1.80 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.

Impact on Truck Shipping at Amazon’s SAT1 Fulfillment Center in Texas

In last month’s edition of Our Changing Landscape we detected a significant dip in shipping rates in one of China’s major ports so it piqued our interest to see perhaps the exact opposite affect here in the USA. As many of us are (or were) cooped up at home without the ability to satisfy our consumer hunger in retail stores, we have turned our attention to internet shopping, and particularly to Amazon. While many companies, even ones with a strong internet presence, have seen sales plummet, Amazon has hired more than 175,000 new workers since the COVID-19 outbreak – with some analysts suggesting that could represent a $13 billion+ uptick in sales.

As of late 2019, Amazon was reported to have more than 175 global fulfilment centers with the largest one the massive 1.26-million square foot warehouse, the SAT1 Fulfillment Center, located in Schertz, Texas. Fulfillment centers are used to fill Amazon’s same-day delivery orders, so Schertz central location puts SAT1 within a short drive to San Antonio as it is in its north-east suburbs, or to Austin which is just an hour north, and even to Houston which is about two and a half hours east. With this massive population within a short driving distance, SAT1 is also an excellent focus for this article as Texas put a statewide quarantine in place on March 29th and slowly began lifting them in early May. So it is time to check out the 3-meter PlanetScope archive to see if we can detect an increase in Amazon’s shipping rates during coronavirus days just as we saw in reverse (in China) last month!

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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