Cheaper, smaller satellites may one day allow resource companies to have their own dedicated Earth orbiter, an expert in Toronto says.

"The development of low cost nanosatellites in the new Earth observation market may one day mean companies in the forestry, mineral exploration, water monitoring and precision agriculture industries will have their own low-cost dedicated satellites,"Robert Zee told an Ontario Centres of Excellence meeting on Thursday.

Zee is managing director of the University of Toronto Aerospace Studies space flight lab,which builds miniature satellites that are much cheaper and pose fewer risks than traditional satellites.

As satellite prices fall, Zee said, the applications are growing to include security surveillance, coastal and border monitoring, disaster management,search and rescue, and environmental and agriculturemonitoring.

Marc Garneau, Canada's first astronaut,told the meeting that space technologyhelps Ontario's global competitiveness.

"Canada is designed to exploit space and positioned to contribute to the global space industry," he said. "Ontario, in particular, is leading this $2.5- billion revenue industry with spin-off technologies that were developed for space research and are now being used here on Earth."

Ontario Centres of Excellence is a provincially supportedagency that promotes the commercialization of academic and industrial research.