USGS Earth Explorer: Download Free Landsat Imagery

download free landsat imagery
download free landsat imagery

How to download free Landsat imagery with USGS Earth Explorer?

The USGS Earth Explorer is a similar tool to the USGS Global Visualization Viewer (GloVis) in that users search catalogs of satellite and aerial imagery. The USGS Earth Explorer is the new and improved version.

The USGS Earth Explorer gives some extra capabilities:

  • Downloading data over chronological timelines.
  • Wide range of specifying search criteria.
  • A long list of satellite and aerial imagery to choose.

Explore one of the largest databases of remote sensing data and create some of your own land cover classification.

User Interface

USGS Earth Explorer UI
USGS Earth Explorer UI

The USGS Earth Explorer interface uses Google Maps. You can zoom in and out with the mouse wheel as if you are in Google Maps. Google street view is also enabled, where you can drop a marker and get a real view of the location.

Users can double-click the browser to create regions of interest. The region of interest (ROI) is the geographic boundary that limits the search to acquire data.

Search Criteria Tab

The search criteria gives more options to create a region of interest:

  • Using an address to search
  • Importing a spatial file (shapefile or KML)
  • Or you can just double-click the map to make your ROI

You can also set a timeline for aerial and satellite imagery downloads in USGS Earth Explorer. You no longer need to search through a long list of acquisitions to find the correct date. This is a powerful tool that in the end saves you time.

Datasets Tab

The “Datasets tab” answers the important question: What satellite or aerial imagery are you looking for?

The USGS Earth Explorer remote sensing datasets are plentiful: aerial imagery, AVHRR, commercial imagery, digital elevation, Landsat, LiDAR, MODIS, Radar and more.

The additional criteria tab allows you to choose the amount of cloud cover, day/night acquisition and data type level to refine your search even more.

Interestingly, USGS Earth Explorer now warehouses Sentinel-2 data. This is really your best option for crisp 10-meter continous coverage of the planet.

Search Results

Now that the date range, type of data and additional criteria are defined, the search results tab will populate with datasets that match your query.

Select the data set you want. There’s an option to preview the data, which can be good to see exactly where clouds are in the image. The Georeferenced GeoTIFF is probably the one you’re after, which will be the largest file size.

At this point, you will need an account to download data. A USGS Earth Explorer account is free. Type in your email address. Click the cart icon to download data.

Let’s Recap:

The USGS Earth Explorer gives a quick and intuitive way to download free aerial and satellite imagery. This tool gives a wide range of options. You can define the time period, geographic extent and imagery type. Test it out for free downloads of remote sensing imagery and more.

Steps to Download USGS Earth Explorer Data:

  • Set region of interest and time period
  • Specify the type of data you want
  • Search data and download.

A big part of the USGS Earth Explorer is the data available from the Landsat mission. We tell you exactly what are the spectral bands, spatial resolution and temporal information for its incredible +40 year history. Landsat Program: Satellite Imagery Data and Bands

What’s Next?


Well, you downloaded the satellite data for some reason, right? What can you do with satellite imagery once you have it?

Satellite data like Landsat is made up of several spectral bands. These bands have combined to create a true color composite or false color composite. We have a guide to do this just for you. How To Combine Spectral Bands with the ArcGIS Composite Bands Tool

Need to classify the imagery? You can use supervised, unsupervised and object-based image analysis. Don’t know the difference between them? No problem. Image Classification Techniques in Remote Sensing

If you want more satellite, this list of 15 free satellite imagery sources should quench your thirst.

7 Comments on USGS Earth Explorer: Download Free Landsat Imagery

  1. Please indicate how to access Hyper spectral images data for geological explorations. I am finding difficulty in downloading free images so that we can work on projects

  2. I’m doing research on application of GIS and Remote sensing in monitoring Forest degradation and Forest deforestation. so please help me in providing landsat data of R141/P41

  3. Suggested next topic: “I’ve downloaded imagery, now what?”.

    Would love to know the basics of processing this data once I grab it from the USGS.

    Good work on this! Cheers!

  4. I’m doing research on application of GIS and Remote sensing in monitoring Forest degradation and Forest deforestation b/n 1985 and 2015 so please help me in providing landsat data of R141/P41

  5. In the time filter, you have to enter MM/DD/YYYY – so in your case it would be 01/01/1985 to 12/31/2015. From there, you have to choose the Landsat archive where you can download Landsat TM, Landsat ETM, OLR/TIRS, etc.

    This post explains to you about Landsat band designations and which Landsat satellites were available for those periods of time:

    Hope that helps.

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