Press Release

House Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space Discusses Future of Commercial Remote Sensing

By SpaceRef Editor
September 8, 2016
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Yesterday, the House Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space held a hearing titled, “Commercial Remote Sensing: Facilitating Innovation and Leadership.” The purpose of this hearing was to examine new technologies and operational approaches of the commercial remote sensing industry and whether changes in current policies and regulations need to be considered to support the industry’s developments. In 1992, the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act (P.L. 102-555) established the framework for licensing and regulation of commercial remote sensing satellites under the Department of Commerce. Recently, stakeholders have suggested that the difficulties in balancing national security with the potential benefits of new commercial services are threatening the opportunity for rapid growth, innovation, and U.S. leadership in the commercial remote sensing industry.

Ranking Member Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) of the Subcommittee on Space said in her opening statement, “Since the 1980s, Congress has set policy to encourage the development of a commercial remote sensing industry as well as the government’s purchase of commercial remote sensing data, as appropriate.” She continued, “I want to highlight the enabling role that Federal R&D continues to have in enabling the success of this industry. It is Federal investments in remote sensing research and development, the free and open dissemination of Federally-provided remote sensing imagery, and the Federal government purchase of commercial remote sensing data that makes this vibrant industry, and its supporting value-added enterprises, possible.”

Members and witnesses made the first step in a larger discussion on what changes might be considered to improve commercial remote sensing regulations and how to utilize the best technologies while maintaining the integrity of our national security. Democratic Members discussed the importance of providing adequate funding for NOAA’s licensing and regulatory functions in light of the increasing demands of a growing industry; whether changes in the interagency process for reviewing licenses could facilitate licensing decisions, among other potential actions that might be taken to support the changes and growth in the commercial remote sensing industry while preserving relevant Federal government interests and obligations. Democratic Members also expressed interest in continuing conversations with input from not only the commercial industry, but also from NOAA and the national security community.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her statement for the record, “Enabled by years of federal investment, the commercial remote sensing industry has made significant progress. In addition to selling high-resolution imagery to government and commercial customers, a number of companies are proposing new approaches to remote sensing, including using constellations of smaller satellites to provide imagery more frequently.”

· Mr. Kevin O’Connell, President and CEO, Innovative Analytics and Training LLC; Former Chair, Federal Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES)
· Mr. Kevin Pomfret, Executive Director, Centre for Spatial Law and Policy
· Ms. Michele R. Weslander Quaid, President, Sunesis Nexus LLC
· Mr. Michael Dodge, Assistant Professor, Department of Space Studies, University of North Dakota
· Ms. Joanne Gabrynowicz, Professor Emerita, University of Mississippi School of Law

SpaceRef staff editor.