The government, late on Monday night, announced a forward looking and new data sharing policy for India's Remote Sensing satellites.
The new policy effectively breaks the monopoly that Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had on the remote sensing sector. The policy makes it clear that now agencies other than ISRO can also be 'nodal agencies' for remote sensing.
It is clear that the immediate beneficiary will be the military, but it also leaves a door open for private agencies to own remote sensing satellites soon, if they desired.
In another dramatic change, all remote sensing imagery and data up to one meter resolution will be made freely available, a quantum jump from the past. However, release of data less than one meter in resolution will still be controlled. This would very much ease infrastructure development in urban areas - telecom, roads and housing sector could benefit greatly.
The old 2001 policy mandated that ISRO could release only data up to 5.8 meter resolution. A Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report had found that almost 80 per cent of images of ISRO were idling. All other better resolution data was strictly controlled by the government.
There had been a huge clamour for the ten-year-old policy to be revised when ISRO failed to locate the missing helicopter that killed the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu.
NDTV had stridently voiced that ISRO, which owns the world's largest constellation of 10 remote sensing satellites in the world, had literally turned them into White Elephants in space as data was not being shared with users. Now the long felt need for increased transparency from ISRO is being met one step at a time.