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TitleThe next 40 years of remote sensing in Canada
AuthorCu, P V; Bancroft, D; Sachdev, S; Shaw, E; Vincent, P; Cihlar, J
SourceCanadian Journal of Remote Sensing vol. 38, no. 4, 2012 p. 528-533,
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20181746
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
Subjectsgeophysics; remote sensing
ProgramCanada Centre for Remote Sensing Divsion
AbstractWhile the impetus for the development of sensors for Earth observation (EO) originated primarily in the world wars and although the first weather and cloud observing satellite was launched in 1960, the modern field dates its beginning to the launch of Landsat in July, 1972. The Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) was the first Earthobserving satellite to be launched with the express intent to study and monitor our planet's landmasses. The lift-off was preceded by several years of experimentation and technology development in the United States ( and in Canada by program planning and organizational developments. Between 1962 and 1970, Lawrence Whitaker (Larry) Morley of Energy, Mines, and Resources (now Natural Resources Canada) and Ensley Allen (Lee) Godby of the National Research Council promoted the establishment of the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS), ( These efforts came to fruition on 16 February 1971 when the establishment of CCRS was approved by the Government of Canada. Since its establishment, CCRS and its staff have created a remarkable record of accomplishments in technology, science, applications, industrial development, international cooperation, and in numerous other areas (Bancroft and Thormodsgard, 2011). Thus, the last 40 years may be considered a success that far exceeded the expectations the people involved had at the beginning. The growth of EO in Canada - in the government (establishment of the Canadian Space Agency, increased use of remote sensing in various departments of the federal and provincial governments), industry (establishment and (or) growth of companies providing hardware, software, data, and services), and academia - can to various degrees be traced to the pioneering and "missionary" work carried out by CCRS. The 40th anniversary of CCRS was celebrated during 2011 through several events. While looking back can be immensely satisfying, a hallmark of the EO community - and an important reason for the successes to date - has been the desire to look forward, to plan for the future, and to anticipate as well as respond to challenges in technology and applications that may arise. Such perspectives have stimulated and guided CCRS, its staff, and other Canadians involved in the EO field. It is with these considerations in mind that a special session, a "fireside chat", was organized for the 32nd Canadian Symposium on Remote Sensing which took place in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in conjunction with the 14th Congress of L'Association québécoise de télédétection. The session was titled "Les prochain 40 ans de télédétection / The next 40 years of Remote Sensing in Canada", and was organized as a panel with five participants representing various components of the EO community: Douglas Bancroft, Director General of CCRS (2010-present); Edryd Shaw, CCRS Director General (1995-2001); Savi Sachdev, Director General Space Utilization, Canadian Space Agency; Pierre Vincent, Executive Vice-President, VIASAT GeoTechnologies; and Pham Van Cu, Director of International Centre for Advanced Research on Global Change, Hanoi, Vietnam. It is difficult to imagine that the original expectations for EO in Canada could have anticipated the eventual achievements in detail and specificity. This is in part because these depended on the concurrent developments in not only technologies regarding sensors, computers, and communications, but also on the growing need for objective and timely information regarding the status and changes of the Earth whose fragility and vulnerability we have increasingly become aware of. Yet, thinking about and planning for the future is an indispensable component of a field that relies on complex technologies with sometimes long life cycles. It can also be intellectually stimulating and yield useful insights. To help focus the discussion, questions were framed in advance for panel members to prepare their remarks. This note contains a synthesis of their views and contributions regarding the identified topics. © 2012 CASI.

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