Nov 21, 2013

Europe Widens Access to Earth Observation Data

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(By Peter B. de Selding | Nov. 15, 2013) PARIS — The European Commission will offer “free, full and open” access to the Earth observation satellites providing data for the commission’s Copernicus program starting in December, the commission said.

The decision, to be published by late November in the Official Journal of the European Union, ends a long debate at the commission, which is adopting the position long held by the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA).

In announcing its policy in a Nov. 13 statement, the commission said the data-access policy will apply to international users as well when it concerns climate change issues including food supplies.

“Sharing this kind of information is an important aspect of Europe’s ‘soft power’ activities,” the commission said. “[S]haring information on climate change is a contribution to a debate engaging the future of many nations and should be done on a free and worldwide basis without discrimination.”

The policy envisions a “set of criteria that will address the protection of the Union and its member states’ security interests,” and will be adjusted if its effects warrant a review, the commission said.

The multibillion-euro Copernicus program, which is owned by the 28-nation European Union’s executive commission but has been financed in part by ESA, features a series of multisensor satellites called Sentinels. The first of these, the Sentinel-1A radar satellite, is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2014.

The European Association of Remote Sensing Companies has broadly endorsed the free-and-open policy direction. But some of its smaller members whose businesses sell low- and medium-resolution imagery for agricultural and other land-use monitoring have expressed concerns that their commercial businesses will now be competing with a free source of data

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