Worldview-3 which will support 31 cm resolution is scheduled for launch in 2014. November 6 the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee voted in favor of relaxing commercial satellite imagery resolution restrictions.
In a very interesting perspective on leadership in the geospatial sector Kevin Pomfret reports that the German government has abandoned hard resolution limits on satellite imagery and the French and Russian governments are being urged by local companies to reduce their restrictions on commercial satellite resolution limits to 25 centimeters. Kevin notes that apparently some parts of the U.S. government are unwilling to agree to this reduction [to 25 cm] due to national security concerns even though there are manned aircraft and UAVs that can collect imagery at much better than 25 centimeters in many parts of the world.
Another issue is that commercial UAVs are still illegal in the U.S.
Kevin sees these issues as part of a much broader problem. The vision and leadership that led to commercial remote sensing and Google Earth, the satellite navigation industry based on the U.S.’s Global Positioning System and development of a national spatial data infrastructure for sharing geoinformation between government agencies is now missing. It is also a much more competiive world with many countries launching earth-observation satellites and developing UAVs and other earth-observation technologies.
Kevin recommends that the U.S. government take some immediate steps to regain the momentum,
- Reduce resolution restrictions for commercial satellite imagery and update both the U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Policy and NOAA’s regulations on the licensing of commercial remote sensing
- Strengthen the technology, policy and legal framework and capacity required to support a robust and world-class national spatial data infrastructure that allows government, industry and citizens to seamlessly exchange geoinformation
- Take immediate measures to address the weather satellite gap, including actively engaging the private sector in a more meaningful way
- Hasten the FAA’s integration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the civilian air space before an inconsistent patchwork of state laws hinder the clear and uniform approaches needed to safely drive this quickly emerging sector.
I would add that 4D satellite imagery (time + 2D/3D), near real-time satellite imagery and the sensor web are other areas that have the potential to be game-changers.