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Last edited 14 Apr 2022
Remote sensing in general means the detecting of information from a distance. More specifically the surface of the earth can be observed and in many cases monitored through the use of satellites or aircraft carrying specialist equipment. This equipment ranges from video and photographic equipment to laser scanning (lidar) and sensor equipment that can detect and record distances accurately as well as reflected or emitted energy.
The earliest and simplest form of remote sensing was the aerial photograph, which gave the opportunity to see for the first time large areas of land use from above, it became an important tool in recording historical landscape changes but also in planning future uses. As the resolution of images has improved along with tools enabling better interpretation and analysis, satellite imagery continues to be an important tool in governance, urban planning and architecture.
Other more specialist remote sensing tools such as radiometers measure electromagnetic energy produced by the vibration of charged particles to analyse changes in the surface and atmosphere of the earth. Spectrometers analyse the surface and atmosphere of the earth using light (either from the sun or from their own source). These passive and active sensors combined have the ability to measure land and sea surface temperature, vegetation properties, cloud and aerosol properties, physical attributes, forest structure, precipitation and wind, sea surface topography, ice among other characteristics.
Remote sensing as a core element of Geoinformatics is seen as an opportunity to better inform the field of urban planning with various free geographic information tools becoming openly available benefiting from both Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in combination with remote sensing.
Whilst Google Maps and Google Earth are commonly used tools, they to some extent give access to historical aerial photographic data. Whist the Aerial Photo Explorer recently released by Historic England gives access to mapped historic aerial photographs across the UK.
NB The glossary of statistical terms, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), defines remote sensing as: ‘The process of acquiring information about an object from a distance; i.e. without physical contact. Remote sensing usually refers to image acquisition by means of satellite sensors or aerial photography.
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