Introduction to Descartes Labs

This Video Onboarding series will give you a crash course on using the Descartes Labs Platform

Welcome to the Descartes Labs Platform Onboarding video series. While it’s impossible to teach everything about our software in these few sessions, we’re hoping to provide a general overview of our tools and let you know where you can find additional resources to help you become a platform power user.

The Platform

Let’s start with what we mean when we refer to the Platform. The Descartes Labs Platform is a data science platform tuned to geospatial data. The functionality we provide roughly fits into two buckets: data management and access, and computing resources. Our data refinery provides access to petabytes of raster imagery and vector data, and it includes performant methods of searching for and extracting that data. 

The primary user interface for our platform is the Python API. You can get it by conda or pip installing descarteslabs, and you can work in any Python environment you choose. However, we recommend using the Descartes Labs Workbench, which has everything you need pre-installed and takes advantage of the Jupyter and Jupyter Widget ecosystem. The Descartes Labs Workbench will be covered in detail in separate videos.


When you get an account for our platform, this is the first page you’ll see. IAM is your account’s landing page, and you can launch any of our tools, check out our documentation to get started, or shoot a message off to one of us here at Descartes Labs.



First, let’s take a look at our data refinery, which we refer to as our Catalog. Here is where you can access any of our data or any data you load into the platform or generate with your analyses.


If we want to learn more about a dataset—say, Sentinel 1—we can click on the product and see all the information about the specific sensor, including acquisitions through time.


So, Sentinel 1 was launched in 2014 and we see the uptick in acquisitions up until today. If we want to learn more about a specific band, we can click on the band to get its data range, resolution, and lots more information.



To visualize these data, we can use our Viewer tool.

Looking down on Santa Fe, we can check out Sentinel 2 optical imagery, which is similar to the view we would have out an airplane window.


By clicking the eye icon, we can toggle each layer. The second layer is shortwave infrared data from Sentinel 2.


The third and final layer is Sentinel 1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery.


You have access to the entire Catalog through this interface, and you can add new layers, filter by clouds, choose different bands, or adjust date ranges.

Additional Resources

As you begin using the Platform for your own work, you will want to refer to the API documentation—which includes additional example code—which you can access through the IAM landing page. If you have questions on how to use the platform or are running into issues, please utilize the GIS StackExchange and tag "descarteslabs" on your question.

Thanks for checking out this introduction to the Descartes Labs platform! Be sure to check out the other videos to learn more about how to dive deeper into our data.


Next: Workbench