Barry Rice

- doing science on a terrestrial planet -

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Remote sensing: a primer

The remote sensing of vegetation has potential application in conservation. However, there is confusion regarding exactly what remote sensing is, what it can do, and how much money and effort is required to extract valuable results from remote sensing data. Land managers desire an instant, out-of-the-box solution to their large-area mapping and surveillance needs, while remote sensing experts are accustomed to spending long periods of time, using highly trained staff and expensive computer facilities, massaging data and extracting the maximum amount of information out of the images. Is there a middle ground where remote sensing can be used in a timely fashion to answer the questions land managers have? Is it possible to simply purchase inexpensive vegetation maps that can be instantly and easily interpreted? Is it the case that to do remote sensing a University research team is needed--and even when such a crew of academics is assembled, they are unlikely to provide maps that are likely to satisfy the desires of a conservation worker in a timely manner? This web-primer is intended to answer, or at least outline, these questions.

Introduction and a Historical Context to Remote Sensing
What is Remote Sensing?
A Brief History of Remote Sensing

Physical and Electronic Data Storage
Emulsion: A Physical Storage Medium
Digital Detectors
Data Archiving

Characteristics of Data
Image Size, Spatial Coverage, and Spatial Resolution
Spectral Coverage and Resolution
Panchromatic Digital Images
Multispectral Digital Data
Hyperspectral Digital Data

Profiles of Remote Sensing Hardware and Missions
First...some terminology

  Platform Sensor Type   Altitude Data type
  AVHRR Passive High Multispectral
  AVIRIS Passive High & Low   Hyperspectral
  EROS Passive High Panchromatic
  IKONOS Passive High Multispectral
  Landsat Series   Passive High Multispectral
  Quickbird Passive High Multispectral
  SPOT Passive High Multispectral
  SRTM Active High Elevational


4 February 2009