What is Remote Sensing?  

According to Natural Resources Canada, remote sensing can best be defined as:

“…the science (and to some extent, art) of acquiring information about the Earth’s surface without actually being in contact with it. This is done by sensing and recording reflected or emitted energy and processing, analyzing, and applying that information.”

Remote sensing typically uses satellites as high as 900km above the earth to scan large surface areas. This information is collected within seconds and serves as one of the most powerful methods to accurately and reliably show rapid changes of the target area over time. Using digital technology, the data collected through remote sensing processes is an unparalleled resource for analyzing large surface areas and gathering valuable statistics.

The Process of Remote Sensing

The process of remote sensing involves the capturing of raw images followed by the translation of these images into useful data for analysis and application. Through the use of highly advanced imaging systems, specific points can be studied, investigated and analyzed using the following seven elements:

  1. Energy Source or Illumination
  2. Radiation and the Atmosphere
  3. Interaction with the Target
  4. Recording of Energy by the Sensor
  5. Transmission, Reception, and Processing
  6. Interpretation and Analysis
  7. Application

How Remote Sensing Images May Be Used

Remote sensing is used regularly by many industries to observe, study, manage, and monitor the earth’s surface. In particular, the following industries actively use remote sensing data to accomplish their goals: agriculture, forestry, geology, hydrology, oceanography, mapping, physics, environmental sciences, mathematics, computer sciences and geography. While there are countless uses for remote sensing data, remote sensing imagines may be used:

  • To accurately map a specific land mass based on land cover and vegetation
  • To identify, measure and manage changes in water and wetlands on a surface area
  • To monitor permafrost, ice and snow for transportation and tourism planning, environmental risk management and weather forecasting.
  • To support professionals such as firefighters, farmers, or government officials in monitoring natural hazards and environmental issues such as oil spills, forest fires, mining activities, flood damage, clear cutting and other relevant land use.
  • To support the mapping of the earth’s surface by geographers.
  • To enable geologists searching for rich minerals to study or extract large masses of land cover.
  • To provide detailed imaging for farmers studying the nature of their crops and the impact of disease, environmental changes and pests.
  • To protect watercraft operators as they navigate through high risk areas such as icebergs.

We are standing at the dawn of a new era in remote sensing technology, with new research and advanced technology emerging every day. To learn more about remote sensing, join the Canadian Remote Sensing Society today. As a member, you will become a part of a National Professional Society with a rich heritage of innovation, gain access to industry networking opportunities, and receive invitations to thought-provoking events such as the 39th Canadian Symposium on Remote Sensing.