India Eases Restrictions on Satellite Imagery Sales

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India has relaxed restrictions on the sale of high-resolution imagery of the Indian subcontinent obtained by its remote sensing satellites.

Under a revised data policy issued July 4, all imagery up to 1-meter spatial resolution shall be readily available for distribution “on a non-discriminatory basis,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced.

The revised guidelines replace a 2001 policy that restricted public distribution of imagery sharper than 5.8-meter resolution.

While the new guidelines allow government users ready access to data of even better than 1-meter resolution, “all data of better than 1-meter resolution shall be screened and cleared by the appropriate agency prior to distribution” to nongovernment users in order “to protect national security interests,” ISRO said.

Private entities wanting to obtain submeter resolution imagery  “for developmental work” will need the endorsement of at least one government agency, according to the new guidelines.

Non-Indian entities and other users, such as web-based service providers, ISRO said, “can obtain the data after further clearance from an interagency High Resolution Image Clearance Committee (HRC), already in place.” Specific requests for data of sensitive areas, by any user, can be fulfilled only after obtaining clearance from this committee, ISRO said. Nondisclosure agreements also must be concluded between ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad and users for data of better than 1-meter resolution.

India’s IRS-1C satellite launched in 1995 had a panchromatic camera with a resolution of 5.8 meters. The country’s first 1-meter-resolution remote sensing spacecraft, the so-called Technology Experiment Satellite, was not launched until 2001 and has mainly been used by India’s security services. The Cartosat-2 satellite launched in 2007 returns imagery with a spatial resolution of 1 meter while its successors, Cartosat-2A and Cartosat-2B, can take images with a resolution of 0.8 meter.