SkySat image showing construction of an airstrip in Taxkorgan, China, captured May 28, 2021. © 2021 Planet Labs PBC. All Rights Reserved.
AUTHOR PROFILE Michelle Sisson Senior Product Marketing Manager
Michelle helps customers in the public sector understand how Planet can help solve their challenges with daily Earth data and insights.

How Governments Use Near-Daily Earth Data to Improve Environmental Compliance


Detect and respond to violations with broad area management.

Governments often lack the resources to frequently monitor changes over vast areas and remote terrain. Regular inspections are designed to promote compliance, but in many regions, labor shortages and funding cuts have reduced inspection frequency.

Delays in discovering noncompliant activities often come with a high price tag. When inspectors discover signs of noncompliant activity like illegal dumping and logging after the fact, multiple agencies are often pulled in to conduct investigations, clean up damage, and enforce sanctions.

In order to improve environmental compliance, governments need to see regional changes on a regular basis and rapidly detect and respond to potential violations.

At Planet, we call this approach broad area management. It refers to the practice of monitoring, measuring, and reporting on changes to natural and human-made assets over vast areas and across multiple time scales.

Benefits of Broad Area Management for Compliance

Near-daily Earth data from Planet brings governments a wide range of opportunities to support environmental monitoring efforts and improve compliance.

  • Detect issues faster: Use automated road and building change detection to identify where development is taking place on a weekly basis.

  • Cover more ground: Improve pre-planning, optimize routes, and accelerate onsite inspection processes.

  • Allocate resources: Prioritize areas of concern and send field labor where it’s needed most.

  • Reduce risk: Preview site before visiting, reduce onsite time, and improve safety for inspectors who visit higher-risk areas.

  • Improve transparency and accountability: Document compliance and progress toward major initiatives.

Spotlight: New Mexico State Land Office

In 2019, the New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO) reached out to Planet for a solution to help monitor 9 million surface acres of state trust land. Like many agencies tasked with permit compliance and code enforcement, they struggled to track economic activity over vast areas in a timely manner. They knew trespassing and other unpermitted activities were occurring, but they couldn’t pinpoint exactly when and where violations took place.

The Office didn’t have enough field personnel to regularly spot changes across every county, and the imagery they acquired from several different sources was often too outdated for analysis. Instead, they relied on a patchwork of tools that provided only part of the picture, limiting their preparation, planning, and enforcement capabilities to strategic points of interest.

Looking for a way to reduce information gaps and improve compliance, NMSLO turned to sensors in low Earth orbit. Planet was the only provider with the frequency, resolution, and coverage they needed to regularly monitor change over vast areas.

Within a year of utilizing Planet’s monitoring solution, NMSLO identified 53 trespasses and generated $2.7 million in back payments to be dispersed to public schools, hospitals, colleges, and other important institutions. They now use Planet’s automated change detection analytics to identify signs of recent infrastructure development, combining the best of human ingenuity with machine learning to maximize efficiency.

An example detection highlighting road development between May and July.

Do More With Planet Insights Platform

We’re making it easier for more government users to access Earth data with our unified experience, Planet Insights Platform. It’s a powerful set of APIs that bring governments the ability to look broader, look back, look closer, and look deeper.

Interested in learning more? Download our e-book, Driving Program and Policy Effectiveness With Planet.