What is Remote Sensing and What are its Applications?

Learn what Remote Sensing is, its history and its different applications in hydrology and environmental sciences.

When we talk about remote sensing, the first thing that comes to mind is satellites, but their development and application are older. Since the invention of photographic cameras in the first half of the 19th century, different photographers have been using them to record aerial images, whether taken with the aid of balloons or kites.

Source: Aerial photograph of Labruguière village in France by w:en:Arthur Batut‘s kite in 1889. Arthur Batut, 2021.

As the use of kites for aerial photography was so common, Arthur Batut even launched a book on the subject, called “La Photographie Aérienne par Cerf-Volant“.

The first aerial photo was taken in 1858 by Gaspard-Félix Tournachon from a balloon at an altitude of 80 meters. And in 1889, using a kite, Arthur Batut photographed the city of Labruguière (France).

When we talk about remote sensing, the first thing that comes to mind are satellites, but their development and application are older. Since the invention of photographic cameras in the first half of the 19th century, different photographers have been using them to record aerial images, whether taken with the aid of balloons or kites.

With the invention of airplanes in the beginning of the 20th century, the easiness of obtaining aerial images became bigger, being even used for military purposes (in the First and Second World Wars).

However, between the World Wars, the use of remote sensing for cartography, geology, agriculture and forestry (civil purposes) began to develop.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that sensors began to be placed in space, and the first multispectral satellite image of the Earth was taken by Apollo 6.

And since then, with the success of several other space missions, such as ERTS (Earth Resources Technology Satellite – NASA in 1972), now called Landsat, the number of remote sensing systems has grown substantially.

This growth ends up generating a huge amount of data, enabling the development of software such as Google Earth, which allows access to these types of data by anyone in the world.

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