Remote Sensing

Essay by da_ken_minB, April 2002

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Remote Sensing from outer space has been taking place since 1947, and despite continued development in the field, particularly following the launch of Sputnik 1, it was not until 1971 that the United Nations began to deal with the issue. This essay will look at the idea of remote sensing and its uses, and the regulation of remote sensing, with particular regard to the differing views of the developed and developing countries on this question.

'Remote sensing' is a means of obtaining information at a distance. When referring to remote sensing by satellite we are therefore discussing observation from outer space, although it is only observation of the earth by these satellites which has caused problems. Christol feels an adequate definition is 'the essentially unobtrusive observation and gathering of identifiable facts through the use of space objects and their component parts.' Throughout the nineteen seventies a number of working definitions were used by the United Nations when discussing remote sensing, but no single definition was agreed until Resolution 41/65 of 1986.

This definition has been criticised, and will be looked at later on.

Remote sensing satellites have both military and civilian uses, although it is only more recently that states have made use of the civilian aspects. The first thought many people may have of remote sensing is of spying, and I feel that this has been the underlying concern for many states in their efforts to settle the law on the issue. The functional purposes of remote sensing include the areas of environment, agriculture and forestry, geography, geology and mineral resources, hydrology and water resources, oceanology and marine resources, and atmosphere-meteorology. This list goes to show that all states could benefit from remote sensing, and as such many have wanted to have access to the information.

Because of the...