Google Street View heads for the Amazon rainforest

In typically ambitious style, Google has announced its philanthropic plans to extend the reach of the Street View project into some of the most inaccessible and remote terrain the planet has to offer.

Amazon riverside view
Image: Google Blog

Google is working with the charity FAS (Foundation for a Sustainable Amazon) to photograph both the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers in north-west Brazil. Over the next few years, the organisation will use ongoing Street View data to demonstrate and reveal the true extent of deforestation and lack of viable sustainability efforts in the region.

Members of the Google Earth outreach and Street View teams are working in partnership with FAS to train local representatives in the data collection process. Equipment will be left behind in Brazil, and the workers will continue to be funded to carry on the work in more locations.

The data collected will be pieced together using Google technology to create a spectacular Amazonian 'Street View' - just like the one of your local high street.

Of course, Google employees won't be cruising around the deepest darkest rainforest alleys in classic Google electric Street View cars; the Amazon definitely demands a different class of vehicles. Google's engineers are busy adapting the 'Street View Trike' which they use to map off-road areas all over Europe and America.

The trike will be sent off-road in the Amazon, onto the dirt tracks and rough roads which link the people of the Amazon with the rivers. Karina Andrade of the Street View team writes in the Google blog that they will "...maneuver it up close to where civilization meets the rainforest" as well as showing what it is like to live in an Amazonian community.

Amazon riverside view 2
Image: Google Blog

Mounting the Street View Trike on a specially adapted river boat, Google's scenic cruises along stretches of the rivers will be the most exciting part of their FAS Amazon project. As well as opening up the shores, vistas and panoramas of the Amazon and Rio Grande, the project will provide people all over the globe the opportunity to witness the Amazon in 360 degrees.

It's uncertain how much of that valuable local wi-fi data Google will find on the outskirts of remote settlements like Terra Preta; but increasing awareness of the fast-disappearing wonders of the rainforest is a global environmental priority, and a task worthy of Google's investment and technology.