Credit: ESA – Copernicus Sentinel 1 satellite image for Flooding Cyclone Idai

Remote sensing definition

Remote sensing is the science of obtaining data about the Earth’s surface without actually being in contact with it and then processing and analyzing this data to generate useful information.

Remote sensing elements

Some of the remote sensing elements worth mentioning are:

  1. Target: a specific location of high interest to be sensed (e.g. Kingdom of Bahrain)
  2. Sensing and recording device: that captures data about the target (e.g. Ariel photography, satellite imagery)
  3. Ground station: responsible to receive and transmit data to and from the sensing and recording device
  4. Interpreting and analysis devices: include hardware and software that help extract useful information about the target
  5. Applications: the generated information about the target is put into actions to improve or help solve a problem.

Quality of data

The quality of remote sensing data consists of its spatial resolution (that specifies the pixel size of satellite images covering the earth surface), spectral resolution (that describes the ability of a sensor to define fine wavelength intervals), radiometric (the ability of an imaging system to discriminate very slight differences in energy) and temporal resolutions (the revisiting frequency of a satellite sensor for a specific location).

Remote sensing software

  • Remote sensing software packages include:
  • ERDAS IMAGINE from Hexagon Geospatial (Separated from Intergraph SG&I),
  • PCI Geomatica
  • TNTmips from MicroImages,
  • IDRISI from Clark Labs,
  • eCognition from Trimble,
  •  and RemoteView made by Overwatch Textron Systems.
  • Dragon/ips is one of the oldest remote sensing packages still available and is in some cases free.

Open source remote sensing software includes:

  • Opticks (software),
  • Orfeo toolbox
  • Others mixing remote sensing and GIS capabilities are: GRASS GIS, ILWIS, QGIS, and TerraLook.

Remote sensing explained on video

Video by FutureLearn