On Wednesday, July 26 a half-day workshop on the Future of Landsat Imaging (FLI) in the U.S. was held at the Department of the Interior (DOI) building in downtown Washington, DC.

The workshop was an outgrowth of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)-mandated FLI Interagency Working Group (IWG) which has been charged with developing a long-term plan to ensure seriate Landsat-like global land imaging.

Nearly 200 people, representing the data user community, industry, and government, attended the workshop. DOI Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Tim Petty, gave the introductory remarks. Dr. Gene Whitney, a Senior Policy Analyst with the OSTP National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), then described the mandate of the FLI-IWG.

Whitney explained that the FLI-IWG is responsible for formulating a U.S. strategy for a National Land Imaging Program that would establish stable, long-term management and funding of Landsat-type data collection. Decisions regarding the strategy will be foremost based on societal needs, meaning that technical capabilities of the future sensors will be tied to the data’s ability to provide tangible benefits to the public (e.g. natural disaster mitigation, increased food production, better water management).

Whitney also outlined the data standards: accurate spectral information (data calibrated to a national standard) and accurate spatial information (precise geolocation). The data must be backward compatible with previous Landsat data, however, current Landsat technology will not constrain the future capabilities of the sensor designs.

The strategy will call for focused federal leadership to unify planning and operational responsibilities as well as mission coordination. The agency would be the single point-of-contact for non-government data users and international partners. FLI-IWG recognizes that the leadership must be flexible enough to deal with technical, political, and fiscal changes that will arise during its tenure. Whitney announced that DOI has expressed interest in housing the National Land Imaging Program.

Kass Green, President of Alta Vista Company and Vice President of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), spoke after Whitney. Green presented the preliminary results of the ASPRS data user survey. At the time, the survey had been open for 20 days and there were 914 respondents. The respondents were equally divided among industry, government, and academic data users and represented a wide cross of applications.

Following Green’s presentation, an eight-person panel representing the “Views of the User Community on Future of Land Imaging” spoke. The panel highlighted many applications of Landsat data and the importance of the medium resolution of Landsat, the robust global data archive, the proven data analysis techniques, and the reasonable data price.

Panel members mentioned that many countries rely on Landsat data to create national maps (especially vegetation maps) and that Landsat data is also used for shoreline and hazard mapping. They explained how Landsat helps land management groups (especially in the large western states) prioritize their most pressing management needs. They told of how Landsat data is the basis for the fire risk map used by insurance companies across the U.S. And, how Landsat data is used for water rights management and water conservation. Landsat is also used operationally by the Department of Defense for illicit crop inventories in places such as Afghanistan. One panelist offered the analogy that if his company was unable to get Landsat data, it would be akin to being blindfolded while driving.

Following the application panel, a five-person panel representing, “Views of the U.S. Aerospace Industry on Future Land Imaging” spoke. Panelists hailed from Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon; they were moderated by Major General Bob Dickman (USAF-Ret). The general consensus of the panel was that their companies were ready and able to build Landsat-like sensors and satellites.

After a 45-minute open discussion, the meeting ended.

Visit the Future of Land Imagine website