Remote sensing is, conveniently enough, exactly what it sounds like; it is collecting data without touching anything. Remote sensing of the Earth uses a wide variety of cameras, sensors, and satellites. Data can be gathered from as high as a satellite orbiting the planet in space or from as low as a construction crane. Cameras have been attached to hot air balloons, air planes, kites, and birds. If it can fly or float, someone has probably attached a camera or other sensor to it at some point! The data gathered range from simple photographs of objects seen in the visible light spectrum to any wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum.
Applications of remote sensing include war reconnaissance, spying, collecting climate data, monitoring natural resources, observing activity in deep space, and investigating natural and cultural phenomena (e.g. observing the spread of urbanization or the extent and effects of deforestation or mining).
The United States government funds several programs that perform various remote sensing analyses.
The Landsat Program was launched in 1972 and is currently jointly managed by NASA and the US Geological Society. The program consists of a network of satellites that take photographs of Earth’s surface from space.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) remotely collects data on Earth’s climates and weather and ocean conditions. The program began as the nation’s first scientific agency in 1807 and has evolved to launch numerous space satellites and underwater exploration missions.
In addition to the Landsat Program, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has numerous orbiting and stationary satellites observing the Earth and as much of the universe in general that they can get their eyeballs on.
(Please note that you will need a valid UIUC NetID or be on a UIUC computer to access these journals.)
Remote Sensing of Environment Available online 1969-current.
“Remote Sensing of Environment serves the remote sensing community with the publication of results on theory, science, applications and technology of remote sensing of Earth resources and environment. Thoroughly interdisciplinary, this journal publishes on terrestrial, oceanic, and atmospheric sensing.”
International Journal of Remote Sensing Available online 1980-current.
“The International Journal of Remote Sensing is concerned with the science and technology of remote sensing and the applications of remotely sensed data in all major disciplines. Principal topics are: data collection, analysis, interpretation and display; surveying from space, air and water platforms; sensors; image processing; use of remotely sensed data; economic surveys and cost-benefit analyses.”
ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing Available online 1989-current.
“ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (P&RS) is the official journal of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS).”
Remote Sensing: An Open Access Journal
“Remote Sensing (ISSN 2072-4292), an open access journal about the science and application of remote sensing technology, is published by MDPI online monthly.”
Manual of Remote Sensing Volumes 1-4. Edited by Andrew N. Rencz. Published in cooperation with the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Volumes available at Grainger Library and the Map Library.
- Volume 1 – Earth Observing Platforms & Sensors
- Volume 2 – Principles and Applications of Imaging Radar
- Volume 3 – Remote Sensing for the Earth Sciences
- Volume 4 – Remote Sensing for Natural Resource Management and Environmental Monitoring
Introduction to Remote Sensing (Fifth edition). By James B. Campbell and Randolph Wynne. Available at the Map Library. Multiple editions available.
“A leading text for undergraduate- and graduate-level courses, this book introduces widely used forms of remote sensing imagery and their applications in plant sciences, hydrology, earth sciences, and land use analysis. The text provides comprehensive coverage of principal topics and serves as a framework for organizing the vast amount of remote sensing information available on the Web.”
Library of Congress Science Reference Services – Remote Sensing
A beautifully comprehensive bibliography of resources on the subject.
Weather World 2010 Project (WW2010) online guide to Remote Sensing
“Developed by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), WW2010 (the weather world 2010 project) is a WWW framework for integrating current and archived weather data with multimedia instructional resources using new and innovative technologies.” The above hyperlink leads directly to the guide on remote sensing.
Remote Sensing Information Gateway (RSIG)
“Multi-terabyte, environmental datasets via an interactive, Web browser-based application.” Hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Training and Tutorials
NASA Landsat Science — Data
Remote Sensing Core Curriculum
“The RSCC was developed … to ‘augment the nation’s supply of experts in remote sensing technology by providing a set of readily accessible, adaptable teaching materials.’ The RSCC is intended to provide a knowledgebase of theory and techniques to advance the understanding and use of remote sensing and geospatial science.”
Federation of American Scientists Remote Sensing Tutorial
Covers a broad range of subtopics.
Dr. Nicholas Short’s Remote Sensing Tutorial
“A tutorial approach to learning about the role of space science and technology in monitoring the Earth’s surface and atmosphere” initially developed for the Applied Information Science Branch of the Goddard Space Flight Center and underwritten by the Air Force Academy.
Aerial Photography and Remote Sensing
Materials developed for “study, research, and education in not-for-profit applications” by Shannon Crum from the Department of Geography at the University of Texas Austin in 1995. Covers the basics of remote sensing. Hosted by the University of Connecticut.
Organizations and Agencies
American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
“Our mission is to promote the ethical application of active and passive sensors, the disciplines of photogrammetry, remote sensing, geographic information systems, and other supporting geospatial technologies; to advance the understanding of the geospatial and related sciences; to expand public awareness of the profession; and to promote a balanced representation of the interests of government, academia, and private enterprise. We are The Imaging and Geospatial Information Society.”
Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society
“The fields of interest of the Society are the theory, concepts, and techniques of science and engineering as they apply to the remote sensing of the earth, oceans, atmosphere, and space, as well as the processing, interpretation and dissemination of this information.” Includes educational materials and some publications.
Association of American Geographers (AAG) Remote Sensing Specialty Group
Educational materials put together by a specialty group within the AAG.
USGS Land Remote Sensing Program
“In addition to operating two remote sensing satellites Landsat 5 and Landsat 7, USGS provides the Nation’s portal to the largest archive of remotely sensed land data in the world, supplying continuous access to current and historical land images worldwide. These images serve many purposes from assessing the impact of natural disasters to monitoring global agricultural production, from monitoring the impact of climate and other global changes to supporting national defense.”
Information about the satellites that NOAA uses to collect data and monitor conditions on earth.
Satellite Imagery and Air Photos — Natural Resources Canada
“The Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (CCMEO) is the Government of Canada’s centre of excellence for remote sensing. CCMEO provides the access, transformation and dissemination of satellite image data and products to government and public users.”
Global Forest Resources Assessment: Global Remote Sensing Survey
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “its member countries, and the EC Joint Research Centre and other partners have been undertaking a global remote sensing survey of forests since 2008. This survey improves the knowledge on forest land use change dynamics over time, including deforestation, afforestation and natural expansion of forests.”
NASA Earth Observatory
An introduction to and brief history of remote sensing performed by NASA.
Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Service Center
Download data, view images.
NASA Image Galleries
Photos and videos of the Earth and beyond.
Earth Resources Observations and Science (EROS) Center
A collection of beautiful remotely sensed images. Images in “Earth as Art” section can be downloaded for free.