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Remote sensing for resources development and environmental management
Damen, M. C. J.

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Looking at the magnificant achievements obtained by
satellite systems in the past fourteen years one is
tempted to believe in the future of remote sensing
technology and one disregards the problems remote
sensing is in at the moment.
In the US, the Space Applications Board of the
National Research Council of the Academy of Science
has last year compiled a report entitled "Remote
Sensing of the Earth from Space: a Program in
Crisis". This report came out before the Challenger
disaster and before the successful launch of Spot
and points out that even before these events the US
remote sensing program which has led the world for a
great number of years is at the cross roads.
The report characterizes the situation very blunt
ly stating, that from 1972 on the USA has been a
world leader in remote sensing technology, and that
it has proved that earth remote sensing can bring
economic, social and scientific benefits. However,
the difficulties are now not technical but admini
strative, and because of these the US may loose its
leadership in the field.
It already became difficult, when NASA, which was
originally responsible for all activities, restrict
ed itself to research and NOAA to operational uses.
But when NOAA's responsibility was further subdivi
ded into governmental meteorological operations to
be maintained by NOAA and into private operational
land remote sensing activities to be managed commer
cially by the EOSAT-Corporation by the Land Remote
Sensing Commercialization Act of 1984, then hamper
ing of remote sensing activities by the US satel
lites is to be expected on a worldwide scale.
EOSAT has received 250 M $ to start the ten year
program in 1985 with two Landsat satellites 6 and 7
envisaged. This is about half the expected cost for
the 10 year program, with the remainder to be ac
quired by image product sales. It is clear that the
French Government has given its three approved and
funded SPOT satellites a better priority and a bet
ter chance to make remote sensing with high resol
ution sensors a success.
Even in the radar area, when Seasat failed after
three months of operation, there has not really been
a replacement, even though the SIR-A & B was flown
on the Space Shuttle. The European Space Agency will
in 1989 be the first to launch the ERS-1 satellite
with a microwave imaging system.
NASA has flown the Large Format Camera on Space
Shuttle once to declare it a success and to score
the equipment indefinitely. With a reflight of the
Metric Camera of Spacelab in sight, the Federal
Republic of Germany has the better conditions.
The strange condition has arisen, that in remote
sensing of the earth the US systems have been put
into great disadvantage, and none really knows why.
There are, of course, the military programs with
high resolution sensors, but anyone able to deduce
from sensor sensitivity, array shift register tech
nology, data transmission rate and reconnaissance
requirements can easily come to the conclusion that
military systems are in no way a competition to
civilian programs, since they only look at small
areas obtainable at better resolution from airborne
mapping cameras, if one is permitted to fly over
the area.
Outside of the US and the USSR Japan, India, ESA
and China have their own launch facilities, and
Brazil will have soon.
Another decision affecting remote sensing in the
world is the earlier decision of the US to utilize
TDRSS instead of a worldwide antenna network for
Landsat TM reception. With Challenger the second
TDRSS was also lost. Therefore chances are high,
that even EOSAT will use direct reception antennas
for the reception of Landsat TM-images.
In this context antennas for the reception of Land
sat TM, of SPOT and ERS-1, situated in different
parts of the world become less costly and prefer
Even when it comes to sensors, MOMS and now SPOT
were the first civilian array detector sensors,
even though they are used in US military programs.
The ideas for stereo imaging appear to e faster
realized elsewhere, e.g. by the German DFVLR, which
constructs a triple stereo-scanner to be flown on
an Indian Rohini-satellite.
We have been used to obtain image processing
systems such as Comtal, De Anza, I 2 S from the US.
At present Dipix in Canada and Context Vision in
Sweden is making these severe competition with new
concepts of image processing technology. Consider
ing new radar processing requirements for ERS-1
there are groups in Europe and in Canada like
McDonald Dettweiler, which concentrate on parallel
or pipeline processing systems of image data.
Not to forget the vast efforts of CNES and IGN
France, together with its international PEPS-pro-
gram to evaluate SPOT imagery to cartographic qual
It looks like the report, which has not been
written so that other nations may rejoyce, has its
validity. But one should not kid oneself in Europe,
and in other nations, there are other difficulties
for the growth of space efforts in our areas, too:
the slow decision process within ESA and the com
plicated modus of operations, the tendency that our
governments are sometimes inclined to copy US gov
ernment decision attitudes rather than going their
own way.
Nevertheless I believe, that we live in very
exciting times when remote sensing carried out by
research individuals situated at diverse universi
ties using image material, which sofar has cost
next to nothing will have to extend their nonethe
less significant mini-results into viable pro
grams .
There is no doubt that progress needs to be made in
storing and managing image data in form of image
data banks, in geocoding the information to be
stored in integrating the remote sensing informa
tion with thematic maps, having been originated
from other sources.
Finally, the full benefit of remote sensing anal
ysis technology will only come about with the de
velopment and use of expert systems utilizing de
cision rules and a knowledge base to improve its
use and the integration of remote sensing data with
other data sources. It will be much easier to draw
conclusions for Professor Verstappen at the end of
this meeting, where remote sensing is going. In
this respect I look forward to the many delibera
tions to be given this week.
But there is another reason for me as president of
ISPRS to be concerned about with respect to remote
sensing. Our Society exists since 1910. Even though
activities in photo-interpretation have existed
since the early beginnings it was not until 1952
when Commission 7 was established, no doubt under
the influence of Professor Schermerhorn.
When remote sensing came into being it was primar
ily outside of ISPRS where remote sensing activities
were taking place.
There was first a governmental undertaking to
regulate governmental funding. Also intergovernment
al bodies, such as UNESCO, the UN and FAO started
activities. Then laboratories or individuals organ
ized themselves into well functioning regional