Satellites have played a huge role in development of many technologies such as world mapping, GPS, etc. However, their applications are not limited as imaging devices only. To be honest, they are whole a lot more than just imaging devices. Remote Sensing is one of the many innovations that were possible, thanks to these satellites roaming around the earth. In this article we will be discussing various applications of this technology called Remote Sensing. After reading these applications your view towards satellites is going to change. Following are some major areas in which remote sensing is useful:
- Many more (number is damn high, can’t list out all, these are main fields in which it is mostly used)
Now let us begin the list and discover all the applications one by one:
3D mapping at uranium enrichment site: In various uranium enrichment sites in Iran, multiple satellite acquisitions and 3d mapping systems are used to differentiate between volumes. This process has proven successful and spreading heavily.
Arial photography for military surveillance: Bavarian pigeon corps was used by German military in order to spy on enemy positions o accomplish their dirty work. However, this method was not proven so efficient and left behind some hard lessons for Germans.
Assessment of condition of rural roads: Rural road conditions are now possible to be assessed using various Remote Sensing techniques and GIS technique with inch to inch accuracy. It saves whole a lot time and money of transporters.
Assessment of fuel economy: Satellites have now become capable of measuring vehicle emissions including CO, HC, NO, etc. without much interference from the space. Governments are using this technique for putting pressure on vehicle owners to make them follow emission standards.
Assessment of train stability: In interferometer technology, landscape deformation is measured with sensors using phase differences. This technique is mostly used in sectors of oil and gas in order to measure train technology.
Calculating snow pack: To understand snow melt ratio, NASA uses LIDAR along with a spectrometer in order to measure the absorption of sunlight. This can be easily understood by using Remote Sensing technology.
Collecting earth’s pictures from space: NASA has a 75 page collection containing images of earth. Interesting patters of earth’s geometry including oceans, atmosphere, land, etc can be seen in it. EO-1, Terra and Land sat are used to collect this data.
Complete view of real estate: Satellite imagery and Remote Sensing technology is useful for customers planning to buy a new home. They can check nearby schools, shopping districts, parks and every other thing they are expecting to be close.
Conserving lakes and rivers: Wooded areas along with the waters are the final line of defense constantly protecting lakes and rivers from running off. There riparian zones also require some assistance. High resolution satellites are used to observe them since they are spread on entire globe.
Controlling forest fires: Data acquired by satellites using Remote Sensing enables firefighters to be dispatched on time and over accurate locations so the damage from such fires can be decreased to minimal.
Counting cars in parking lots: Whoa? Doesn’t it sound useless? No my friend it is not! There is a certain reason of counting cars parked in a certain parking lot. Through the results, retail earning and market share can be predicted. This simple strategy is considered high tech for stock marketers. They simple predict the share attributes only by knowing how much they will earn in close near future.
Counting polar bears: Polar bears are on the top in the list of animals that would extinct due to global warming. Ecologists use satellite images as a trusted and primary source for counting them for their survival.
Creating automatic road networks: Up to date data regarding to road networks are important for emergency services, urban planning and navigation systems as well. Multispectral image sensing technology and object base classification technology is used to develop automated road networks that serve useful information for groups described above.
Delineating watersheds: DEMs (digital elevation model) are prepared using hydrologists’ Remote Sensing technology that represents the flow and location of water body.
Deriving factors contributing in poverty: Many governments have implemented Remote Sensing techniques in order to obtain a get a clear picture of areas full of poverty so that they can supplement what’s lacking to improve the situation.
Detecting land cover and land use: Remote Sensing technologies are used to determine various physical properties of soil (land cover) and also how it is being utilized or what it is being used for (land use). Spatial analysis laboratory is doing these activities since years now.
Developing biodiversity in parks: Remote Sensing technology is important for maintaining parks since it can map landscape changes. Mapping biodiversity, invasive species and predicting fire risks are some of the main park Remote Sensing applications.
Developing online mapping services: It is hard to find a person who has not yet used Google earth, Bing maps or Open street maps. These technologies are too based on Remote Sensing technology. They provide an interface with up to date imaginary without costing us a single penny. It makes it quite efficient to check out locations you are going to visit or find some locations along with the directions to go there. GPS too use this system for providing user interface on the screen.
Discovering ancient archaeological sites: Remote Sensing techniques such as infrared imagery and stereo imagery are used in archaeological field. Ancient Mayan and Egyptian civilization are the greatest examples of such discoveries.
Elevation and contours derivation: Remote Sensing technology named photogrammetry is used in contour mapping, developing surface models, conducting volumetric surveys and developing 3d maps. This same technique is also used in crime scene mapping, archaeology and architecture.
Estimating forest supplies: AVHRR, MODIS and SPOT are regularly used to measure the increment / decrement in global forests since forests are source of valuable materials such as paper, packaging, construction material, etc.
Estimating surface elevation: NASA’s SRTM (shuttle radar topography mission) is capable of scanning entire globe in mare 11 days. A Remote Sensing technology named inter-aerometric synthetic aperture radar is used in it.
Exploring and navigating arctic: Arctic is possible the last frontier of human development with multiple countries claiming for it. There are performed heavy duty task using Remote Sensing technologies such as ice monitoring, ship tracking, national defense, etc.
Extracting mineral deposits: Earth holds more than 4000 natural elements, each with their unique chemical composition and spectral reflectance. Hyperspectral remote sensing technology helps to build potential map of these minerals.
Figuring out fraud insurance claims: Various insurance companies use Landsat’s red and infrared channels to figure out vegetation growth in particular soil. This information can used to verify seeded crops and fight against crop insurance fraud.
Figuring out habitat suitability for pandas: 99% of regular panda diet is bamboo. Habitat is really important for these rare animals. Remote sensing technologies such as fragmentation and corridor mapping are used for protecting endangered pandas.
Finding missing bodies (0_o): Remote sensing technology is used in operations for finding missing people since they can sense anomalies on the ground and narrow down the search area greatly so that time, money and human power is saved.
Fishing activities: Fishermen save a lot of time and fuel by using satellites to monitor sea surface. In this process, remote sensing technology is used to observe surface color and temperature to derive areas full of fishes.
Forecasting weather: GOES12, 13, 14 and 15 are used to forecast and monitor weather. It is important for business, tourism and other important industries. Remote sensing is being used for forecasting weather since 1975.
Geology of Earth’s surface: Bedrock, lithological and structural mapping are some famous geological remote sensing applications. RADAR and multispectral spectral reflectance have managed to derive valuable information in the field.
Identifying crop conditions: Satellite imagery and normalized difference vegetation index technologies are used in order to monitor global fool supplies. Healthy crops are reflected green where other areas are red or blue otherwise.
Improving air traffic control: Satellite based GPS system is used to maintain the flow of air traffic. It avoids the use of ground based radar so that money is saved and routes are improved alongside with improved safety.
Increasing precision in farming: Health of crops is measured using remote sensing applications so that almost 10 percent of fertilizer can be saved. Money and time invested on that fertilizer would also be ultimately saved.
Inspecting and migrating bird prevalence: Light weight GPS telemetry techniques are used to derive migration location of birds. Remote sensing technologies such as LIDAR, multispectral and radar are also useful in such processes.
Keeping inventory on cemeteries: UAVs were used to map out cemeteries of wide areas. It is a cheap technique to map out graves, however, accurate and easier than practical mapping.
Lift irrigation system: A wide range of data is required to design lift irrigation systems for improving water supplies for agriculture and other industries. Full view of the ground can be acquired with satellite before construction begins.
Locating construction and building alteration: Satellite data is used in several countries including Athens, Greece, etc by Tax revenue agencies. They locate signs of wealth using this technology. Back into the year of 2013, there were 15000 swimming pools (unclaimed to steal taxes) in those countries. Remote sensing is being used by these countries in order to increase tax revenue.
Locating ghost cities: There are many build apartments, malls, residential areas china with no people. Satellites use remote sensing techniques to find such areas and indicate how legit or dummy the economic growth is.
Location swimming pools: Teenagers use a real imagery for finding pools for word famous dipping activities. It is actually a crime so I was not sure if I should include this application. (I did anyways)
Managing City assets and safety: LIDAR is used by many companies for the purpose of managing their assets and also for ensuring safety. LIDAR data and municipal data are compared to make sure that every construction is permitted and safe.
Mapping out ocean floors: ESA’s Cryostat-2 and NASA’s Jason1 are involved in the activity of mapping out mountains and objects of ocean floor using remote sensing applications revealing seafloor topography as well.
Mapping soil types: International soil resource and information center uses MODIS imagery remote sensing technology to map soil types for agricultural predictions and planning to improve the future results.
Mapping with laser precision: In the process multiple technologies such as light detection techniques and ranging technology are used. LIDAR is used to measure distance between airborne platform and surface of the earth. Full form of LIDAR is light detection and ranging. It is capable of providing results at laser level accuracy. There are various practical uses such as digital surface models, elevation models and light intensity models.
Marine life and environmental preservation: Oil slicks cause noticeable damage to marine life and surrounding environmental. With remote sensing technology, ocean and weather forecast can be obtained to locate oil spills and determine oil direction and spread ratio.
Measuring Albedo: Albedo is considered an important factor for radiation budget of earth. Satellites assign an Albedo value to each land cover. This value is them multiplied by land cover type and then summed up to get final results.
Measuring gravity level: GRACE satellites (gravity recovery and climate experiment) are used to keep track on gravity levels around the globe. Gravity pulls over one satellite are tracked with microwave pulses of another satellite to acquire accurate results.
Measuring protest size: Remote sensing technology help to estimate the size of the crowd and areas effected with the protest. This technique save quite a lot time of journalists and give them details without physical being in the chaos.
Measuring soil moisture content: Active and passive sensors of a satellite in the space are used in order to determine soil moisture content. Many earth sciences such as water cycle, drought, and flood are based on content of soil moisture. There are two ways of determining moisture of the soil from space as following:
- Active sensors
- Passive sensors
Radar-sat 2 is a great example of active sensors. It illuminates the targeted area in order to measure backscatters. It has a comparatively high resolution but reduced accuracy. SMOS is example of passive sensor. It is highly accurate but comparatively holds poor resolution.
Measuring sea levels: This is one of the most large scale applications of remote sensing technology. Remote sensing data is used by satellites in order to measure sea levels with accuracy of inches. There would be no requirement of going to the sea shore and measuring the sea level with you measure scale.
Measuring wind speed and direction: NASA’s Quick SCAT scatter meter and wind LIDAR make large scale wind operations for providing accurate wind information to golfers, farmers, pilots, engineers and turbine planners.
Monitoring economic night activities: Many nigh time remote sensing application are capable of giving insight of regional economies, electric power access, etc. All this information is obtained just by looking at earth in night.
Monitoring environment: Copernicus program launched by European Space Agency aims to use various remote sensing technologies in order to obtain a complete autonomous monitoring system that can be used to understand overall health of earth.
Monitoring human impact over globe: Landscape changes are nowadays observed quite easily and efficiently. It is considered longest observations. Records old more than 30 years old are also available. Main observation objects are oil spills, wars, chemical spills, dead zones, etc.
Monitoring illegal boat dumping: Historical areal and satellite images are used to track the path of the boat that was dumped illegally. In this way, original owner and illegal dumper (if they are not the same) can be tracked efficiently.
Monitoring ocean flow: Current on the surface of the ocean are controlled by wind however deep in the ocean they are controlled by salinity and temperature. OSCAR a remote sensing technology is used to monitor them with max possible accuracy.
Monitoring oil reserves: High spatial resolution imagery is used for this purpose. In this remote sensing application, satellite imagery is used without even requiring to physically measuring the tank.
Monitoring sediment transport: Major industries like fisheries, tourism and ecology are affected due to sediment transport in rivers and lakes. Repeated coverage and temporal analysis are done using remote sensing technologies to measure nutrients loading in water bodies.
Navigating ships: With the improvement in ship navigation, GPS is not the only tool used. Along with GPS, other remote sensing technologies such as routing analysis, wind, wave information, ship proximity are used to save ships from sinking on iceberg!
Oasis of marine vegetation: Some unique remote sensing technologies are applied for mapping out underwater reefs and bathymetric locations. It is noticeable that oasis of marine vegetation is referred as snorkel.
Observing algae growth: Hyperspectral sensing technology is used by NASA to observe biochemical properties of algae blooms and make prediction of their locations which may affect lake’s health.
Observing aurora borealis (from different angles though): Satellites have made it possible to observe aurora borealis from up above rather than the ground. These different colors are nothing but reflecting gases with sunlight and magnetic force of earth.
Observing biodiversity: Spatial and spectral resolution sensor technologies are used in the field biodiversity. LIDAR are used to make hyperspectral structure and 3d vegetation structures.
Observing climate changes: Remote sensing satellites such as MODIS, CERES, AMSRE, TRMM and MOPITT has made it possible to observe climate changes from up above the skies. It is also possible to compare past climate situation with current one.
Observing darker North Korea: Thanks to remote sensing techniques, satellites are able of observing darker side of North Korea. There are various prison camps holding prisoners who try to escape from Korea visible on satellite maps.
Observing glacier melts and sea levels: GRACE satellite of NASA is responsible for monitoring melting level of glacier located on Alaskan and Polar Regions since rapid melting ice is scarily causing increased sea level all around the globe.
Observing groundwater activities in well: Remote sensing technology observers rock types, soil, land use and rainfall, etc. This data is then used to derive well sites on zone maps.
Observing live volcanoes: Remote sensing technologies such as thermal sensing and mid infrared sensing are used to monitor activities of active volcanoes. AVHRR and MODIS are main satellites involved in this activity.
Optimizing telecom network capacity: Remote sensing technologies serve as a cost effective way for telecommunication companies in order to track and optimize network requirements. Appropriate antenna, location and direction are used to augment radio frequency coverage.
Picking signals from submarines underneath waters: SAR remote sensing technology is used by satellites for locating underwater technologies. Vibrations and temperatures sensing are also useful in the process. Objective is simple, leave submarines with no space to hide at all.
Planning black diamond ski runs: In order to plan ski resort location when there are a lot of locations to choose from, laser technology is used to derive an idea and safe mountain slope to establish a ski resort.
Population growth in urban areas: Population growth within a city is predicted using remote sensing satellite by observing land use. It is accurate and works for a defined area.
Positioning you on earth (its GPS bruh!): Global positioning satellites were introduced in May, 2000. Since then, it has been constantly evolving and accuracy was increased. It is an important application of remote sensing since it is included in top 50 innovations after wheel.
Predicting abundance of mosquitoes: Satellites remotely sense factors such as greenness, brightness and temperature to predict where larger mosquito families are located. This data is useful for restricting disease and fogging efforts.
Predicting famine: Early famine signs are important for governments so that they can deliver food in areas affected with shortage. Remote sensing satellites SMAP and SMOS are capable of understanding flooding and drought.
Predicting occurrence of dinosaur tracks: Footsteps of dinosaurs still exist under the soil in form of fusels. These tracks can be located using remote sensing technology in order to predict exact location where dinosaurs once existed.
Predicting potential landslides: Around the globe, landslides cause noticeable death and wealth loss. INSAR uses interferometry remote sensing technique for providing early warning regarding to potential landslides.
Preserving wetland ecosystems: Wetlands are resources for pure water; they act as flood controls and are consistently decreasing and being lost. Remote sensing technology is not consistently being evolved to monitor and track their progress in order to get them survive.
Preventing atrocities: GATHR (Geospatial technology for human rights) use remote sensing applications and satellite imagery for obtaining legal evidence that is useful for on ground coordinates to restrict illegal activities.
Preventing spread of forest disease: Remote sensing technologies can be useful to control disease such as mountain pine beetle. It is an important application since there are millions of billions people making their living based on forests.
Quantifying post-earthquake damage: Earthquake damage assessment is important for rescue workers in a quick and accurate manner. Object images of pre and post earthquake are compared using remote sensing satellites for quick assessment of earthquake damage.
Recognizing buildings: Remote sensing technology such as irresistible magnetism allow to observe maps (3d) at a 45 degree angle making it easy to identify land figures such as buildings. Google and Bing have already implemented such functionality.
Recording videos: Various remote sensing technologies are used for recording videos from satellites. These videos are useful for tracking landing and taking off flights, tracking traffic rush or even for spying purpose.
Reducing traffic jams: Remote sensing techniques are used to monitor traffic density and changes. This data is useful for manipulating traffic directions and flow within an area to make sure jam level is minimal.
Restricting diseases from spreading in epidemiology: Some diseases are strongly related with climate, land use and air. Remote sensing technologies are used to figure out areas where these diseases are much likely to happen. These data are useful for putting a stopover certain diseases.
Restricting illegal forest cutting: In tribal areas, tools like Google Earth, smart phones and GPSs are used to keep an eye over illegal activities such as mining and logging in order to restrict them. Remote sensing satellite technologies are heavily implemented for observing illegal wood cutting.
Restricting sex trade in remote areas: Human trafficking is a global crime performed over boundaries and secretly. However, remote sensing satellites have made it possible to avoid these barriers and gather evidence to restrict this serious criminal activity.
Searching crashed aircrafts: Hundreds of satellites orbit the earth each day, monitoring various activities in their space. If they are in the right place on the time, their data may be useful in finding crashed and lost aircrafts.
Searching road cracks: In major cities such as California, satellite imagery is used to derive information about damaged roads so that construction team knows exact location where immediate repair is essential.
Self-driving mode for vehicles: Multiple remote sensing technologies including RIDAR and GPS are used in self driving car along with precocious piece of software. Whole concept of autonomous vehicles is based on these technologies.
Solar panel energy optimization: Global horizontal irradiance map is required when determining best position to install solar panels around the globe. This map indicates the amount of solar rays for a particular location. This map is acquired using remote sensing technology such as GOES and Meteosat.
Spotting undeclared nuclear power plants: International atomic energy association plants to verify presence of undeclared atomic plants using remote sensing technologies. It is quite easy task for satellites since these plants contain circular structure of cooling tower with releasing thermal emission.
Spying on enemies: Reconnaissance satellites are being used by militaries for acquiring enemy intelligence from a long period now. Use of satellites is not only limited to taking photographs and parachuting to surface. They help acquiring targets for artillery.
Supplying clean drinking water: Simple remote sensing application named base maps are used to keep an eye on where and how much water shortage exist. This information is then used as a base for building further plans.
Tracking air quality in lower atmosphere: Carbon monoxide is the most major pollutant in global pollution. It cannot be seen by naked eyes; however, infrared radiation can be measured using a spectrometer that is used by a satellite of NASA named MOPITT.
Tracking and helping refugees: Satellite imagery was used by UNHCR in order to track accurate situation of refugees so a proper aid can be delivered to them. Aid and help were greatly optimized to proper location using this technology.
Tracking and monitoring hazards: Remote sensing technology is heavily implemented in order to figure possible damage from hazards so a proper dispatch and response can be planned. Main goal is to avoid damage as far as possible.
Tracking urban growth: Urbanization is at its peak nowadays and especially in developing countries. Surfaces observed through satellites are useful for tracking the progress of this well-known phenomenon. As Estimation, 50 percent people from most developed country live in urban areas compared to tribal one.
Understanding wildebeest migration: NDVI and SLOPE are used to model wildebeest movement patterns. So that, their location of migration can be found to study their birth-giving activities.
Using radars for charging higher insurance premiums: Thanks to the remote sensing technologies such as radars and hydrological modeling, geographers can figure out what areas are more prone to flooding. Moreover, they can also determine possible damage and frequency of flooding.
Please let us know if any applications area we are missing, we will add in our list. We request the reader to add at least one application that they know on the comment box and I will edit and add in above list.
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