"What’s needed is a way of mapping urban areas from space at high resolution and in a way that is unaffected by cloud cover and without the ambiguities that traditional imaging introduces. [Now revealed is] a global map of urbanization that meets all these requirements. The result is a data set of the entire planet at a resolution of 12 meters that maps the global urban footprint with unprecedented accuracy and resolution. [...] Esch and co have created a global database of built-up areas based on synthetic aperture radar images from an Earth-orbiting mission called TanDEM-X. This consists of a pair of spacecraft that have been orbiting Earth in close formation -- just a few hundred meters apart -- since 2007. These spacecraft take radar images of the ground from slightly different angles, allowing researchers to create a 3-D map of the planet. In total, Esch and co have processed 470,000 pairs of images to create their map of the entire planet."
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