Launching Bhuvan: ISRO’s answer to Google Earth, zoom into states, districts

Google Earth's got some competition now — from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which today unveiled its beta version of Bhuvan (meaning earth in Sanskrit).

A web-based tool like Google Earth, Bhuvan promises to give better 3-D satellite imagery of India than is currently being offered by the US-based software giant plus a host of India-specific features like weather information and even administrative boundaries of all states and districts.

The application can be downloaded from

The tool would offer pictures of the globe, just like Google Earth, and navigable in the same way but currently has the best resolutions over the Indian sub-continent. It allows users to fly from space to street level, grab, spin and zoom down to any place.

It also provides tools for measuring, drawing, saving, printing and visualizing thematic information. The resolutions currently on offer are good enough to view a vehicle moving on a road quite clearly.

Bhuvan currently only offers images taken between one and three years ago even over India. It combines satellite imagery from various sensors onboard IRS (Indian Remote Sensing) satellites and transposes them on a 3-D globe. As it keeps updating its database with more recent and higher resolution images, Bhuvan eventually promises to offer real-time data and images.

Incidentally, Indian authorities have had some problems in the past with Google Earth's depiction of certain parts of the country. Recently, Google Earth admitted that it had mistakenly shown some areas in Arunachal Pradesh as part of Chinese territory and promised to correct the maps soon. The Indian government had earlier pulled up Google Earth for showing some sensitive and strategic defence locations on its maps.

Keeping in mind that its users will be mostly in India to begin with, Bhuvan is designed to be as "bandwidth-friendly" as possible and can run even on slow internet connections. However, as of now, it does not allow users to add their own data, like photographs or text, on to the images.

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