About Us / Imagery

Commercial Satellite Imagery Request Process

The U.S. State Department can share U.S. government (USG) licensed commercial satellite imagery with approved recipients under certain conditions and Departmental clearance on an individual case-by-case basis. The Department’s ability to facilitate commercial imagery requests is subject to Departmental determination that it is in the interest of the USG to share the requested imagery, as well as staffing and resource constraints.

Imagery can be requested in two ways. First, in the native imagery format (NITF or GeoTiff) if the organization has the capacity to receive, process, and work with raw high-resolution imagery data. Second, the Humanitarian Information Unit can host imagery web services that can be used for crowdsourced mapping into the OpenStreetMap database. This option, referred to as Imagery to the Crowd or MapGive, works in conjunction with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and the Tasking Manager application they maintain. See the webpage for Imagery to the Crowd for more information.

The request process is similar for either option, the key is a clear justification for why the imagery is needed. Beyond the justification, the requesting organization should be able to provide specific answers to the questions below. In dialogue with the Department, it may be determined that further refinement of the requirements or narrowing of the requested scope is necessary.

Common Questions


  • What is the purpose of your imagery request?
  • What sort of analysis do you intend to conduct using the requested imagery?
  • What sort of data do you intend to create?
  • What sort of products do you intend to generate using the imagery or imagery-derived data, and how will they be disseminated?

Geographic Extent

  • What are the specific points and/or bounding coordinates for your area(s) of interest? Please include a geographic file containing your area of interest(s). A GeoJSON (.json or .geojson), Google Earth file (.kml), or ESRI Shapefile (.shp) format are preferred.

Temporal Bounds

  • What is timeframe (specific date, range of dates, and/or pre-event and post-event dates) required for the requested coverage?

Imagery Specifications

  • Do you require panchromatic, multispectral, or both?
  • Do you require ortho-rectified imagery?
  • What file format is required for receipt of the imagery? (NITF, GeoTiff, Erdas Imagine, .img, etc)
  • How do you wish to receive the imagery, and if applicable, what is your FTP information? (Note that at present imagery data can only be sent directly to a requesting organization’s ftp site, or DVDs can be sent via mail.)


If you have general questions, please contact HIU at HIU_INFO@state.gov.

If you have questions about data, please contact HIU at HIU_DATA@state.gov.

If you have questions about HIU S&T programs, please contact HIU at HIU_DEV@state.gov.