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History and applications of remote sensing

13 April, 2017

Remote sensing is essentially the process of using technology to gather information at a distance. This is accomplished through cameras and sensors such as infrared or radiographic devices. These can be either stationary ground devices or attached to mobile or wide-area vehicles such as ships. aircraft, satellites, or spacecraft.

History of Remote Sensing

Remote sensing begins with aerial photos of Paris taken from a hot air balloon in 1858, and was quickly adopted for reconnaissance work in the American Civil War. In WW I planes took the place of balloons, and by the Cold War era this advanced to high-altitude spy planes and satellites. Technical advances saw a progression to radar, sonar, and infrared in addition to photos and videos. Today we have systems that can track weather patterns and ocean currents around the globe and store the data in digital files for computer modeling and analysis. Stored data is of great scientific value.

 Remote sensing is still a vital tool for military as well as law enforcement. Smaller cameras and more sensitive signal detectors are used in manned and unmanned vehicles to observe and report on wide areas, or focus on single structures or even vehicles, to provide command with detailed, real-time strategic information.

Remote Sensing Data

The types of data gathered may include one or several types of sensing devices which all provide a more comprehensive set of pertinent data. Radar has traditionally been used to scan for remote objects in the sky or sea but is also essential to meteorological studies. Sonar is still widely used to identify underwater objects by analyzing the echo "ping" returned. Lasers can determine distances, shapes, and speeds with great accuracy through measurement of the reflection of each pulse of light. Infrared radiation devices measure radiated heat to detect vehicles, individuals, and other heat sources or patterns. Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) devices are electro-optical devices commonly used in weapons ranging, but have other uses such as chemical detection.


Remote sensing technology plays a crucial role by helping to guide and prepare troops or unmanned vehicles toward a specific objective. But they are also of immense importance in broader humanitarian projects that often fall to the military, such as responding to natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes. Remote sensing and computer analysis can not only help to monitor such events, but predict them. Comprehensive, world-wide data collection is also an important benefit to modern industries such as agriculture and shipping.

A variety of devices and applications allow today''''s science and military to gather more information over wide areas, and process and utilize it, with great speed and accuracy. Remote sensing results in better and faster decision making in all applications.

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