India: To allow the benefits of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation and Monitoring programme and of the Indian fleet of remote sensing satellites to extend beyond the borders of the partners, in Bangalore, on 19 March, the European Commission and India’s Department of Space signed a landmark Cooperation Arrangement related to sharing of Earth observation satellite data.
The Copernicus programme provides a wide range of applications, e.g. climate change, land, ocean and atmosphere monitoring as well as support in the forecasting, management and mitigation of natural disasters. Its full, free and open data policy has proven its merits by allowing the development of a thriving user base in Europe and beyond. On the other hand, India has developed an ambitious and wide-ranging Earth Observation programme which is managed by the Department of Space of India and implemented by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Recognising that data sharing will provide mutual benefits, in particular in the pursuit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the European Commission and India’s Department of Space (DOS), have decided to sign a Cooperation Arrangement with the aim to strengthen and stimulate cooperation on Earth observation and mutual access to the data from the European Union’s Sentinel series of satellites and from the Indian Earth observation satellites.
Under this arrangement, the European Commission intends to provide India with free, full and open access to the data from the Copernicus Sentinel family of satellites using high bandwidth connections from data hub to data hub. Reciprocally the Indian DOS will provide the Copernicus programme and its participating states with a free, full and open access to the data from ISRO’s Earth observation satellites including historical data sets. It is intended that ISRO’s satellite data will be made available for distribution on the European ‘Copernicus hub’. This comprises land, ocean and atmospheric series of ISRO’s civilian satellites (Oceansat-2, Megha-Tropiques, Scatsat-1, SARAL, INSAT-3D, INSAT-3DR) with the exception of commercial high-resolution satellites data.
The Cooperation Arrangement includes technical assistance for the establishment of high bandwidth connections with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sites, in particular through setting up of mirror servers, data storage and archival facilities. Considering the importance of in situ observations, which are complementary to space-based observations, the Indian DOS will facilitate access to in situ data from its regional observatory networks of geophysical and meteorological data, to support the enhancement of the Copernicus data architecture and towards the development of global products. ISRO will coordinate access to in situ data and promote the use of information and data provided by the Copernicus programme with various institutions and government agencies, particularly the environmental sector and all other users, including academia and the private sector.
This Cooperation Arrangement is also expected to lead to the development of an active downstream sector in the European Union and in India, as well as to joint product development. They aim at facilitating the involvement of diverse users in the development of products and services. In particular, both sides intend to encourage cooperation on data processing for common use in line with the EU-India Agenda for Action-2020, e.g. long-term management of natural resources, monitoring of marine and coastal areas, water resource management, impacts of climate variability and climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, food security and rural development, infrastructure for territorial development and health management issues.
Both sides support free, full and open access for end users to data and information from the Sentinel fleet and from the ISRO satellites specified in the Arrangement, and each side will fund its own activities and adhere to the principle of ‘no exchange of funds’.
The Cooperation Arrangement has been signed in Bangalore on 19 March by Mr Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence, on behalf of the European Commission and by Dr PG Diwakar, Scientific Secretary, ISRO on behalf of the Department of Space of India.