3D Robotics

Google Earth API: One more month to live


A public service message from the Google Earth blog. This is the API used by many ground stations, and DJI in particular has ended support for their GCS as a result. GCSs such as Mission Planner and APM Planner can use alternative map providers, so they should be fine.

In December last year Google announced the deprecation of the Google Earth API (also known as the Google Earth Plug-in). It is set to stop working one month from now on December 12th, 2015. The documentation page for the Google Earth API states that it will be shut down on that date.

The reason Google has given for terminating the Google Earth API product is that it is reliant on an ageing technology called NPAPI which is not considered secure and most browsers are dropping support for it or have already done so. In addition, it was never available on mobile platforms.

Google Chrome never included support for NPAPI in its 64-bit version released in September, 2014. The 32-bit version of Chrome gradually dropped support for NPAPI (and with it the Google Earth API) initially making it harder to access in April, 2015, and finally dropping support altogether with the release of Version 45 in October.

We believe Safari still supports it.

It still works in Firefox and we still find many uses for it such as for finding recent imageryreleases. Download this KML filegelogoicon.gif to see the location of imagery in Google Earth that was captured in November (less than 12 days old!).

The Google Earth API has many great uses. We showcased a number of them in this series of posts earlier this year. We at GEB believe Google should consider allowing the GE plugin to continue to work at least until a suitable replacement is in place (with the next version of Google Earth perhaps?).

If a complete replacement is not planned, Google should consider making some of the services available via the Maps API or entirely new APIs. For many of the most common uses, simply adding a few more features to the Google Maps API would make a big difference. Currently it is not possible to use the 3D imagery or tilt the view in the JavaScript Google Maps API although it is possible with the Android version of the API. We use the historical imagery information quite a lot which could be provided as a standalone API.

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  • Developer

    @Cliff-E That the Google Maps Engine. https://developers.google.com/maps-engine/?hl=en. That is not the Google Maps API see https://developers.google.com/maps/web/

    On mobile Maps are provided as part of the platforms.

  • More details  Google Maps is effected next year.

    OSM is nice, but has issues. Hence we've been on WorldWind for 3 yrs (JPL's open source product) with a WMS server for proprietary maps and [mainly] use bing maps for their 1m sat data (due to JPL's agreement). Works just as good as GE, but you need to add your own data for building structures/objects or export from a GE enterprise account (we don't have). In the end it's about the WMS server capability (GE has it too).

    I've worked with ERSI's products for many years, good stuff and its shapefile standard/format should be considered in drone apps. Though I was more of an ERDAS developer back in the day since their 3D capability was light years ahead at the time.

  • OpenStreetMap!

  • ESRI seems to have bought the Google Earth program and re-branded it as their own.  Not sure if this includes any of the other parts of the package, like the APIs


  • Google maps arn't licenced for commercial use, so dubios position for both 3DR and professional operators who are not buying their mapping.

  • Part of the original 'discontinuation' announcement.

    "Google Earth has a proud legacy, which continues with the new Google Earth for Android, powered by a brand new renderer. 3D is in our blood, and while we can’t announce anything just now, we look forward to sharing more exciting product news in the future.

  • Developer

    APM Planner 2.0 uses Google Maps API which is used to show map tiles. APM Planner 2.0 does not use the Google Earth Plugin for web browsers. 

    The same can be said for Mission Planner.

    The Google Earth API allowed the rendering of 3D content using the hosts graphics card. With the inclusion of WebGL in HTML5 compliant browsers it is no longer needed, and you can use providers like Cesium http://cesiumjs.org/ (again this is a web technology not used by desktop apps directly)

  • Does MP use the GE API?  I thought maybe it was using something different, like a Google Maps API.

    Does this mean that we'll basically be forced to switch over to Bing map tiles or something? Not that there's anything wrong with that, just want to understand the situation.

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