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Remote Sensing: How it works and how to make it work for your business

In a world where technology is growing exponentially and innovations are introduced every moment, remote sensing is rapidly finding its place in our daily activities. Soon, it will become an integral part of human life, assisting business processes in a wide range of industries. Nowadays, there are already lots of different platforms where people can buy satellite images or get them for free. This article will bring you up to speed on remote sensing and how it can help your business.

What is remote sensing?

Based on the term alone, we can already deduce what it means. Remote sensing can be described as the process of obtaining information about an object from a remote location or without physically touching it. One of the most common uses of remote sensing is satellites to take pictures of the earth’s surface.

The process of remote sensing requires critical components to work correctly:

  • Energy source – Sun or artificial source
  • Carrier or medium – Electromagnetic waves
  • Target – Object of study, for example, the earth’s surface
  • Sensor
  • Reception center
  • Data analysis and application

Let’s look at a classic case of photography, which is also remote sensing. For good pictures, the object needs to be well illuminated. And if there is no light, you can not take photos at all. So, the primary need of any remote sensing is a source of illumination. Conventionally, illumination was only done in the visible spectrum. However, remote sensing can also be done in other wavelengths, such as infrared. This also holds true for remote sensing using satellites. Here it is differentiated into two types – active and passive. With active remote sensing, the energy source comes from the satellite, while the energy source is the sun in passive remote sensing.

Once the electromagnetic wave is emitted by the source (sun or satellite), it travels through space into the atmosphere and falls on the earth’s surface. Every object on this planet has its intrinsic properties and interacts with the EM waves differently. So, the EM waves are reflected or absorbed and then radiated back to the atmosphere and detected by a sensor on the satellite. Now, data collected by the sensor is either downloaded or transmitted to an earth station or a processing center where corrections are done. After that, the data is then made available for personal and business use.

What is remote sensing used for?

Now, let us take a look at some of the business applications of remote sensing:

Fuel economy applications: Governments can now use remote sensing to calculate vehicle gas emissions. They use satellite data to enforce rules and ensure that car owners stick to emission standards.

Real estate applications: People can now use remote sensing technology and satellite images to buy their new homes. They can check for nearby shopping malls, schools, universities, parks, and other amenities that they would love to have around.

Counting number of cars in parking lots: Even though it may sound useless and unimportant, knowing the numbers of vehicles in a parking lot can tell you much about the business around. Stock marketers can use it to predict market shares and retail earnings.

Developing online mapping services: Nowadays, almost everyone has used map services such as Google Earth or Bing maps. These technologies are also based on remote sensing. They provide us with updated state images for free. So, people often use them to plan for journeys and check directions.

Extracting minerals from the earth: The earth consists of over 4000 naturally occurring elements, each having a unique spectral reflectance and chemical composition. So, scientists can locate these minerals using remote sensing.

Limitations to remote sensing data

Even though remote sensing is done using robots, these machines are operated by humans who are prone to error. The operator still needs to make vital decisions such as which sensors and resolutions to use. This can ultimately lead to errors in data collection.

Inaccurate data can also be generated when robust remote sensing systems emit electromagnetic radiation that can be intrusive and affect the objects under investigation. Uncalibrated and inaccurate data can also be produced when the hardware systems are not calibrated.

Final thoughts

Nowadays, it is almost impossible to find an industry where remote sensing will not be of any value to them. As digital transformation continues to take over the world, technologies like remote sensing are quickly being adopted to ease business processes.