Let it go: When aerial data streaming outperforms downloading

Streaming or downloading?

One of the main questions our customers ask when they require updated high-resolution aerial data. Both options are available to access the HxGN Content Program imagery, but what camp are you in?

Personally, I stand with the streamers. In today’s sharing society, ownership is becoming a burden of the past. Who needs the hassle of finding the storage space or keeping up with too many possessions? Not me, and in most cases, not you, either.

Letting go of the control downloading provides can be tough at first, but once you realise the freedom streaming provides, you’ll never look back. Just think of your kids and the principle of an LP or CD collection that they will never understand. Why would they buy a few albums to keep in a shelf if they can have access to all of them on the cloud?

So, let’s talk pros and cons.

Streaming over downloading

Why do I stand so firmly in the streaming camp?

  • Saving storage space
    Streaming doesn’t take up valuable storage space on your servers. Simply consume the data you need and move on. Instead of worrying with where to store the media, let the service provider deal with that while you just get what you need.
  • Gaining immediate access
    Put plainly, streaming is faster than downloading. When we’re talking media like airborne imagery, files can range in hundreds of gigabytes. That can take hours to download, while streaming grants you immediate access to view the images as needed.
  • Reducing costs
    In general, a subscription is more cost-effective than buying a piece of content for download. The more data you need, the more this rule applies. With the HxGN Content Program you can buy a streaming license for an entire county from as little as USD 695 per year.
  • Always up-to-date
    Your streaming license will always provide you with the most current data in the program. You don’t have to worry about re-purchasing data after a refresh cycle, because we will make it available to you immediately.

What is it about downloading then?

With all the benefits of streaming, it seems hard to understand why there is still a demand for this method of ordering pixels, but the fact is there still is such a demand. Allow me to debunk some long-held beliefs.

  • Access whenever, wherever
    If you’ve downloaded a file, you can access it from your device at anytime from anywhere – you don’t need an internet connection like you do for streaming. I can see this, and this is the biggest advantage over streaming. Consider, though, how often are you without internet today? Not very often. So, you have to ask yourself if this advantage outweighs all those of streaming.
  • Share with whomever, however
    A download is able to be copied and moved from device to device. Well, let me stop you right there. Have you checked the copyright? With most media, there are tricky copyrights included in the purchase. If you haven’t purchased the correct rights, you are legally prohibited from sharing the data from the one device you bought it for. So, make sure that you have the correct licensing agreement in place. As a long-time supplier of pixels for download, our team can help you with this.
  • Some data can’t be streamed
    Naturally, this is one point that can’t be disputed. Because there are no open streaming standards for all data types, download might be your only option when you purchase DSM (digital surface models) and stereo imagery. Typically, our customers place custom orders for their area of interest, and we will deliver the data as a download.


So, don’t worry, whether you’re a die-hard downloader or an uncompromising streamer like me, the HxGN Content Program still offers both options with no plans to change. Data streaming is available starting from USD 695 per year for access to an entire county and data download starts at USD 99 minimum fee for 24 square kilometers of data at 30-centimetre resolution or 12 sq km of data at 15-cm resolution.

You want to join us in the streaming world?


For media content, whether its airborne imagery and elevation data from the HxGN Content Program or your favourite TV series, streaming is the future. Subscribe for a free 10-day trial to see for yourself.



Belai Beshah is the vice-president of software development for Geospatial Content Solutions, Hexagon’s Geosystems division.


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