| TAMPA/WASHINGTON, April 15
TAMPA/WASHINGTON, April 15 The U.S. intelligence
community has thrown its support behind a bid by commercial
space imagery provider DigitalGlobe Inc to sell higher
resolution images from its satellites, the leading U.S.
intelligence official said Tuesday.
DigitalGlobe has pressed the government for years to allow
it to sell such imagery but U.S. government agencies worried
that giving public access to them could undermine the
intelligence advantage they have from even higher resolution
The green light from the U.S. intelligence community follows
rapid advances by non-U.S. space imagery companies that have
raised concerns DigitalGlobe could lose market share if it is
not allowed to compete on high resolution images.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told an
industry conference that U.S. intelligence agencies had agreed
to allow commercial providers to sell higher resolution imagery
but that the decision still needed approval by other agencies.
Clapper said the recommendation "certainly bodes well for
DigitalGlobe applied nearly one year ago for a license to
increase the resolution of its imagery from 50 cm to 25 cm. It
welcomed Clapper's remarks and said it hoped the U.S. government
would act quickly to finalize the decision.
The difference would allow observers to discern not just a
car seen by a satellite, but also the make of the car.
Clapper did not specify what exact resolution the
intelligence agencies had approved, but two sources familiar
with the process said they expected him to approve a phased
implementation over the course of this year.
The Colorado-based company is preparing to launch its new
WorldView 3 satellite in August, which would allow the company
to sell imagery accurate to 31 cm, a company spokesman said.
"DigitalGlobe appreciates the intelligence community's
support for reforms to the current U.S. regulations," said
Walter Scott, founder and chief technical officer of
"We are hopeful that the administration will act promptly on
this issue to advance the nation's commanding lead in this
strategically important industry," he added.
Jeffrey Harris, a former director of the U.S. National
Reconnaissance Office and industry expert, said the decision to
allow sales of higher resolution commercial imagery would help
industry and the U.S. government by increasing transparency.
Allowing commercial providers to sell more accurate imagery
at an affordable price would allow the U.S. government to spend
its money and energy on higher-end government-owned
capabilities, said Harris, who was elected Tuesday as president
of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.
A second source familiar with the imagery market said
officials from the Defense and Commerce departments,
intelligence agencies and the White House met to discuss the
matter on Friday.
More senior officials must still approve the move, said the
source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, but it was not
immediately clear when that could occur.
(Reporting by Warren Strobel in Tampa and Andrea Shalal in
Washington; editing by Andrew Hay)