An international regime for remote sensing- problems and prospects

Rao, U. R. ; Chandrashekar, S. (1986) An international regime for remote sensing- problems and prospects International Journal of Remote Sensing, 7 (1). pp. 3-18. ISSN 0143-1161

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The question of an international regime for the regulation of remotesensing activities has been under active consideration for a number of years. The main problems that seem to preclude agreement at the United Nations seem to be national security, sovereignty and commercial considerations of the developed and developing countries. The main issues on this relate to the 'right to sense' and 'the right to disseminate' the data obtained from sensing. The underlying reasons why these are outstanding issues (even though they are never openly stated) are the 'sensitivity aspects' of remote sensing. In the 1980sthis complex problem is bound to be further complicated due to higher resolution, commercialization and the increase in the number of countries launching remote-sensing satellites. A critical analysis of existing international law seems to indicate that there are two kinds of remote sensing-active sensing and passive sensing. While in a strict legal sense passive sensing may be construed as legitimate the rules for active sensing are not that clear. Agreement on remote sensing can be reached if a resolution or a range of resolutions can be identified to distinguish 'sensitive' from 'non-sensitive' data. The only international agreement on remote sensing is the one between the U.S.S.R. and a group of nine Socialist countries where the resolution limit is specified as 50m.Available information even though not very clear seems to indicate that this resolution limit could be between 20 and 50m.There is also a proposal to use satellites for monitoring arms control and for crisis management by creating an International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA). The huge expense that this would entail would be acceptable only ifISMA can monitor the superpowers and the arms race between them.

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