Balancing Government, Industry Interests Key To Future of Commercial Remote Sensing

Balancing Government, Industry Interests Key To Future of Commercial Remote Sensing

Dennis Hightower, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, said on the last day of the International Commercial Remote Sensing Symposium (ICRSS) that the remote sensing industry “is on the cusp” of making a breakthrough. Sales are expected to grow by 15% every year, he added, taking note of the “vast economic potential” of this “high-tech, high-growth industry.”

Mr. Hightower underlined the Obama Administration’s commitment to promote growth in this industry, balancing industry needs and national security concerns through “smart, calibrated regulations that keep us safe and enable competition.” He outlined the Obama Administration’s efforts to tackle what he called the “innovation deficit,” including measures at the Department of Commerce to create a new “innovation pipeline.” Mr. Hightower ended his remarks by saying that success for the commercial remote sensing industry “will require open dialogue between industry and government.”

One issue is licensing restrictions. In the United States, the approach has been to limit the resolution of commercial satellite systems in order to prevent highly detailed data that could have national security consequences from being sold on the market. Industry proponents argue that the restrictions stifle innovation and hurt competitiveness and want them relaxed.

Acknowledging the need for some sort of rules, Norihiko Saeki, Deputy Director of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, suggested that to ensure a sustainable market while balancing industry growth and national security, regulations should be broadened to include elements like place, person, and the timing of acquiring and disseminating remote sensing data. “We could change the sphere of the discussion” by including such criteria, said Saeki.

Wolfgang Schneider, Deputy Head of the Space Technologies Division of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology suggested in turn that the information content (such as spectral resolution) or the circumstances of distribution could be used to develop regulations. “Nobody here [at the ICRSS], including industry, can have an interest in the misuse of data,” he added. He said that everybody – both in government and industry – could agree that the goal is “not really to limit technology, but [to] set up the responsible use of it.”

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