International issues in remote sensing

Rao, U. R. ; Chandrasekhar, S. (1983) International issues in remote sensing Sadhana (Academy Proceedings in Engineering Sciences), 6 (4). pp. 373-386. ISSN 0256-2499

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Starting with the initial aim of reconnaissance technical developments in remote sensing have progressed sufficiently for the large-scale realisation of practical benefits. During the eighties a number of countries will have remote sensing satellite systems in operation. There are however a few technical, legal, political and economic issues that still remain unresolved. The resolution of these issues would facilitate practical applications especially in developing countries. Apart from the purely technical and economic issues such as the ability to compare data from two different satellites, the cost of the data etc one of the major hurdles in the application of this technology is the establishment of an international regime governing the activities of states in remote sensing. This is particularly important in view of the link between surveillance and remote sensing. Even though discussions have been going on for quite some time at the United Nations, the prospects of reaching agreement remain bleak. The main problems precluding agreement are national security, commercial and sovereignty concerns of the developed and developing countries. The key issues relate to the right of countries to conduct remote sensing over other countries, the right of countries collecting remote sensing data (over other countries) to distribute this data freely and the modalities of how the "sensitivity" aspects of remote sensing for surveillance and economic espionage can be reconciled with a legal regime that emphasises international cooperation. A critical analysis of existing international space law seems to indicate that there are two kinds of remote sensing-passive and active. In passive remote sensing the satellite sensor detects the sun-reflected or self-emitted radiation from objects on the ground. In active remote sensing a pulse of electromagnetic radiation is transmited from the satellite and its reflectance or scattering by objects on the earth's surface is measured. A strict reading of existing legal principles on space seem to imply that passive sensing is legal while active sensing could be interpreted as violating the sovereignty of the sensed state. Agreement on remote sensing can be reached if a resolution or a range of resolutions can be defined to discriminate between "sensitive" and "non-sensitive" data. The only international agreement in this area between the USSR and a group of nine socialist countries uses a resolution limit of 50m. Available information on the subject seems to indicate that the range is from 25-50 m. One other aspect dealt with relates to the use of satellite data for verification of arms control measures, for crisis monitoring and the prospects of setting up an International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA). It appears that the huge expense that this would entail would be justified only if theISMA can monitor the superpowers and the arms race between them.

Item Type:Article
Source:Copyright of this article belongs to Indian Academy of Sciences.
Keywords:Remote Sensing; Reconnaissance; International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA); Disarmament; Resolution; Space Photographs; Space Treaty
ID Code:42760
Deposited On:06 Jun 2011 10:43
Last Modified:17 May 2016 23:57

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