How Remote Sensing Can Help Solve Environmental Problems

September 13, 2019

According to a study by the United Nations, the Earth’s human population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050. By then, the environmental challenges we are facing today could become even bigger as more people will depend on our planet’s limited amount of resources.

To mitigate the risks and dangers of a constantly growing population, we must rely on the distinct advantages of remote sensing technology in monitoring the state of our environment at both a global and local scale. We can already use satellites to receive real-time images of our land, water and air.

By applying remote sensing technology, we can also track and respond to activity around our natural resources, especially within our local environment. Here are some examples.

Land Use in Construction Projects

For many large-scale construction projects (buildings, pipelines), it is necessary for project operators to first conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to obtain a license. The purpose of the EIA is to evaluate the anticipated effects that construction activities will have on the local environment – these are known as the “project footprint”.

A project’s footprint is often measured against all potential uses for the land on which it will be developed. To achieve this, image classification techniques like object-based image analysis (OBIA) can be applied to create a land cover data, allowing operators to determine what functions certain areas of land could serve in a project.

Counting Animal Population

Remote sensing can also help us understand an ecosystem by tracking what is within it, particularly all the animal species and their habitat, while also contributing to the land cover database. Ecologists use GPS telemetry to study and analyze how animals can be impacted by changes in their environment. Wildlife managers can also use light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology to understand the health and composition of forest properties, which can be invaluable in environmental conservation.

Water Health

Not only can we monitor land and living organisms using remote sensing technology, but also what is in our lakes and rivers. With the help of multispectral sensors, we can easily measure the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus fed into freshwaters, and these biochemical properties will help us map out which parts of the water are unable to support marine life.

Remote Sensing – The Key to Sustainability

The various applications of remote sensing technology can play a key role in reaching our sustainability goals. It helps us understand the geological, ecological, physical and hydrological characteristics of our local environment, and creates a foundation of data that helps us make the best decisions for the environment and humanity. Perhaps as the adoption of remote sensing technology accelerates and becomes widespread, initiatives such as UN’s Sustainable Development Goals could be achievable.