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What exactly is Remote Sensing and how is it applied in the Location Technology Industry?

Remote sensing is one of the cornerstones of location technology.  Without it, many of the datasets that location technologists rely on wouldn’t exist and our knowledge of this earth and other planets would be far poorer. 

Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about a particular location without having to physically visit that location.  Instead, a range of sensors, built on satellite or aircraft-based platforms, are used to capture data which is then used by analysts to produce data products.  

Sensors are classified into two broad types, active and passive.  Passive sensors gather radiation that is reflected or emitted by the object or surrounding areas.  Typical sensors include photography and infrared and are used for a range of applications.  For example, measuring forestry for carbon accounting, or in farming to measure soil moisture or crop growth.  The recent flooding in Canterbury is another example of passive remote sensing and was used to evaluate the impact of flooding in the region.

Active sensors emit their own energy and then measure the reflected return.  Radar and lidar are the most common sensors of this type.  In particular,  lidar (light detection and ranging) produces data sets that location technologists most frequently use.  For a great introduction to lidar, read this recent Stuff article

In recent years, the number of remote sensing satellites has increased dramatically and the availability of data has become commonplace.  Anyone with a credit card is able to purchase data captured as recently as the last satellite pass!

The growth in the drone market has seen the proliferation in sensors that have increased the availability of sensor platforms to capture data on a local level and these smaller platforms have also helped to drive this growing market. 

Remote sensing will continue to provide data and insight which will fuel the location technology industry in New Zealand.

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