Two upcoming remote sensing satellites may enable India to capture a bigger pie in the global earth imagery market. The market is simply burgeoning with several public and private sector users. ISRO’s key projects — Resourcesat (IRS-P6) and Cartosat-1 (IRS-P5) — are slated for later this year and 2004 in that order. Antrix Corporation, the marketing arm of ISRO, is betting big on these two satellites.
Cartosat-1 will offer high-resolution 3D/stereo imaging of 2 metres. Resourcesat will give true colour (multi-spectral) data in 5.8 metres. Data from both will find enormous applications for urban and infrastructure planning, alignment of roads, pipelines and industrial projects, agriculture and terrain and vegetation mapping. India (read Antrix) figures among the top five data providers from the IRS or remote sensing satellites. It holds 20-25 per cent of this $50-million global market. In 1995, it entered a 10-year tie-up with Space Imaging (SI) to globally market the earth imageries mainly from IRS-1C and 1D, which for the first time gave ISRO a push into the commercial arena. Today, remote sensing sales forms a core 60-plus per cent of Antrix’s turnover, which include sale of satellite sub-systems, services and lower-orbit satellite launches.
By the end of October when it closes its fiscal year, Antrix expects an overall turnover of Rs 100 crore, up from Rs 61.51 crore in 2001-02. The domestic earth imaging sales, now worth around Rs 20 crore, are handled by National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad.
The remote sensing imagery market is dominated by the likes of French SPOT. The IKONOS satellite of SI gives a resolution of 1 m and Digital Globe’s QuickBird gives an even better 0.6 m. That means they offer clear photographs of objects as small as 1 m or less, from their orbit some 600-900 km above the Earth. Though ISRO has reached the 1m capabilities with its experimental satellite TES, these superior products will be commercially available only with Cartosat-2, which is due for launch in 2004-05.
Resourcesat is more focused on data for agriculture, land and water use and disaster management. Cartosat-1 and 2 are expected to spur GIS applications, digital terrain models, cadastral mapping and land use. The Hyderabad civic body, for example, plans to use 1m imageries (from IKONOS) to assess building sizes and fix property tax.