Remote Sensing Technologies and Global Markets

Published - Feb 2007| Analyst - Jim Wilson| Code - IAS022A
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Report Highlights

  • The total global market expenditures for remote sensing products were more than $7 billion in 2006 and should reach almost $7.3 billion in 2007. At a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3%, the market will reach more than $9.9 billion by 2012
  • Weather forecasting holds the highest share of the market throughout the forecast period, hovering at approximately 38% of the total global market through 2012
  • Public health applications have the highest growth potential. These products will be worth $402 million in 2007 and will grow at a CAGR of 10.9% to reach $675 million in 2012.


Over the past 2 decades, industry analysts have observed that many other industries have made use of what is generally referred to as geographic information systems (GIS) in their day-to-day operations. During this time two related events occurred, both involving the release of previously classified military technology. The first was the commercialization of so-called spy satellites capable of taking high-resolution photos of virtually any location on the planet. The second was the U.S. government's declaration that high accuracy latitude and longitude locating signals broadcast from the U.S. Air Force's global positioning system (GPS) constituted a national resource that would be freely available to all peoples of the world. The confluence of those three technologies - GIS, remote sensing and GPS - led many analysts to predict that a powerful new industry was about to be born. Some boldly predicted it would surpass $30 billion in sales by 2005. The reality, however, quickly proved different and the industry, although showing growth, had by 2005 failed to produce even one sixth of the earlier estimated revenues. What might be termed the false dawn of remote sensing has ended, and a new somewhat smaller but more competitive industry has emerged. Indeed, remote sensing today is very much in the position of the automobile business in the early 1950s or the personal computer business in the late 1980s. Each had been a promising child that experienced a difficult adolescence only to emerge along a path that appears to lead to a successful adulthood.

Several studies, some of which have been sponsored by government agencies and other trade associations, have sought to predict the near future of remote sensing. Each was thorough; however each was also narrowly focused on only those activities conducted from airborne or space-based remote sensing platforms. BCC decided to undertake this report to provide the first comprehensive study of the industry that includes all four types of observational platforms. The result is the first comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of the entire remote sensing industry.


This report is broad contains:


  • A comprehensive overview of the remote sensing industry, including descriptions of GPS, GIS, and remote sensing technologies, as well as important applications, such as: weather forecasting, intelligence gathering, climate change, public health, and more
  • A detailed market analysis of the 20 application areas for remote sensing, with historical data, compounded growth rates, and five-year forecasts to 2012, covering each region of the world, the four types of remote sensing platforms, and the 10 general types of remote sensing instruments
  • Important technology and advancements within the industry, including important historical devices and potential upcoming developments
  • A patent analysis detailing important innovations
  • Profiles for the major players in the remote sensing industry.



To undertake this forecast we analyze remote sensing products currently on the market, announced products, U.S. patents, and products referenced in forward looking financial statements filed with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission. The value of imagery has been calculated on the basis of published prices, and in the case of government agencies, by extrapolating from published program budgets.

This report specifically omits handheld instruments and instruments that obtain data only by coming in physical contact with substances. It excludes remote sensing products generated within the government exclusively for non-commercial purposes. An example of an excluded product would be a high resolution image taken by intelligence agency satellite and used to plan, execute and evaluate a military operation. However, it includes imagery acquired from the private sector by defense and intelligence agencies, such as imaging purchases made under the Department of Defense's (DOD) NextView program.


BCC studied more than 400 companies to obtain data for this study. We also reviewed reports and studies prepared for peer-reviewed professional literature, and reports by the technical staffs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as well as Presidential directive and policy statements. In addition, we compiled data from scientific and technical conferences, presentations prepared for financial analysts, the United Nations, European Union, European Commission, European Space Agency and the World Bank.


James Wilson is a well known technology analyst and author of more than 300 articles and several books dealing with science, medicine, technology and business. Formerly the editor of the Princeton Business Journal and a senior science and technology editor for Hearst Magazines, he is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and American Medical Writers Association. He has served on the adjunct faculty of Temple University and on the staffs of Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences. He is also the author of Medical Device Coatings and Controlled Release Technologies: Established and Emerging Markets.

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