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“Future scenario of Remote Sensing data usage is very promising”

D. P. Rao, Director, National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad

“Future scenario of Remote Sensing data usage is very promising”

D. P. Rao, Director, National Remote Sensing Agency shares his views on Remote Sensing scenario with [email protected]

  • Could you let our readers know about the latest developments and the future plans of NRSA?

    The developments in NRSA relate mostly to its mandate, namely data acquisition, data dissemination – both satellite and aerial, value-added services, technology transfer and providing trained manpower to the users. With respect to value-added services, especially generation of information on natural resources and environment, the shift has been towards providing a total solution to infrastructure/network planning and other related issues using satellite data, GIS, GPS, photogrammetric and modelling tools to the users, and addressing new application areas.

    Encouraging private entrepreneurs to establish facilities for analysis and / interpretation of satellite data, digitisation of thematic maps and data integration in a GIS domain for generating action plan for development of land and water resources to support the Department of Space and State Remote Sensing Centres in the national projects with a view to providing reliable, timely and cost-effective solutions to the problems are worth mentioning. Besides, NRSA has also undertaken technology transfer for design, development and manufacturing of import-substitute instruments/equipments to private entrepreneurs. Establishment of data reception facilities from IRS series of satellites in other countries and making available hardware and software required for satellite data reception, pre-processing and analysis through Antrix Corporation Ltd., Bangalore – a corporate office of the DOS, are the other important developments.

    Plans are afoot to gear up the reception, processing and analysis of data from IRS-P5 (Cartosat – I) and IRS-P6 (Resourcesat – I) missions. Besides, special products which are being generated interactively on offline systems will become tomorrow’s standard products. Further, we will continue to strive for improving the quality of services we have been providing to the users apart from addressing newer areas of applications using high spatial resolution data from future Earth observation missions by employing advanced data processing, analysis and/or interpretation techniques and modelling.

  • What are the challenges and opportunities for NRSA in the era of high resolution satellite like IKONOS?

    Since India plans to launch Cartosat-1 with 2.5m spatial resolution in 2002 and Cartosat-2 with 1.0m spatial resolution in 2003, IKONOS-II data with 1.0m spatial resolution will provide an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the processing, analysis and / or interpretation of such data. In addition, the availability of high resolution data from IKONOS-II will prompt the user community to utilise such data for a host of new engineering applications such as network planning and optimisation for roads, railways, canals, telecom and power grid routes, etc. Consequently, when high-resolution data from Indian missions become available, it could be routinely utilised at the operational level in a variety of application areas. As spatial resolutions go on improving to better than one-metre, newer applications, currently possible only with aerial photographs, come into fore. High spatial resolution, coupled with revisit capability, will provide the scope of going in for applications, hitherto possible only with aerial photographs. In fact, such data will replace 90% of applications currently being addressed using aerial photographs, which is going to be a bigger market share for NRSA. It calls for newer software developments including data processing, analysis and/or interpretation.

  • What are the upcoming sectors for application of remote sensing data?

    Hitherto, the information on natural resources and environment has been generated and optimal land use plan suggested at macro-level using currently available satellite data. The availability of improved spatial, spectral, radiometric and temporal resolution data in conjunction with GIS, GPS, photogrammetric and modelling tools, will ultimately enable generating micro-level (at scales of 1:8,000 or larger) information on natural resources, generation of 3-D perspective of the terrain for micro-level planning, integration of natural resources data with the communication systems for improved developmental activities, of remote sensing in the curriculum and providing required financial and logistic support to academic institutions to run such courses.

    infrastructure planning, making improved crop yield forecasts, studying bio-diversity, prediction of catastrophic events like flood, drought, cyclone etc., and modelling the food, fuelwood and firewood requirements, etc. which will provide the desired input for sustainable development of humanity on the planet earth. Besides these applications, there are a large number of other applications wherein various geophysical parameters derived from satellite data will become inputs, which are required for modelling atmospheric weather and ocean processes.

  • How do you foresee the remote sensing data market and its growth by the end of this decade?

    The growth of remote sensing industries could be seen in (i) Image analysis and / or interpretation (ii) GIS systems (hardware and software) and GIS-based solutions (turn-key projects) (iii) Consultancy – both projects as well as know-how (iv) Ground truth and GPS operations sub-contracts (v) Preparation of final maps, digitization (both for Indian and foreign clients), and (vi) Generation of optimal land use plan or action plan. With the applications’ studies being carried out by national agencies, State Government Departments, users and consulting industries, the value of services provided will have a growth rate of 25 to 30 % in view of greater value additions.

    The market for satellite data in India is about Rs.15-20 crores annually. And current growth rate in revenue for satellite data is to the tune of 15 to 20% per annum. A conservative estimate on the market including services using above data is of the order of Rs.100 to 150 crores. By the end of the decade, the market for services could be around Rs. 1,000 to 1,500 crores. Of course, it is very difficult to predict the market in totality. But with the Internet services becoming more and more popular and demand for spatial information ever increasing, the future scenario is very promising for remote sensing data usage in conjunction with GIS and other high-technology inputs. Users will be expecting data / services on the information super-highway appropriately integrated with other services. This is where the challenges lie for NRSA.

  • In view of industry’s rapidly expanding needs, what are the policy expectations from the government for the growth of Indian remote sensing industry?

    While handling satellite data especially high spatial resolution data from IRS-1C/1D, aerial photographs and topographical maps by the private entrepreneurs, there are sensitivities and hence, related restrictions. An appropriate policy on making such data available to private entrepreneur through proper mechanism while taking into account these genuine concerns, therefore, need to be formulated for effective utilization of such data. Appropriate integration and adaptation of high-technology inputs such as remote sensing inputs into the planning fabrics of the State / Central Government Departments call for formulation of policy framework defining clearly the guidelines for using satellite data. Other policy issues include technology transfer from Department of Space and State Remote Sensing Centres to user organisations, industry, NGOs, academia, etc. and laying greater emphasis on inclusion of remote sensing in the curriculum and providing required financial and logistic support to academic institutions to run such courses.