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Remote Sensing Essay

1820 words - 7 pages

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 great benefits that could be derived from remote sensing and the opportunity for potential misuse of the acquired data the international community through the United Nations and its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) has taken a leading role aimed at establishing a set of legal principles that should govern states in their conduct of remote sensing activities. From 1971 a number of working papers were considered by the committee, and these tended to be put forward by lesser-developed nations who wanted the area regulated. Indeed, it was an Argentinean proposal that resulted in getting the Working Group set up in September 1971.States' views on remote sensing, as with many Space Law issues, depends to a major degree on the space competency of the states. Those with the ability to send satellites into orbit are the envy of those that do not, and as such the lesser developed nations have tended to attempt both to restrict information gathered about them, and to gain access to that information.These attempts are reflections of the two major issues that the UN has had to try to resolve...

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