Remote Sensing and Satellite Earth Observation

Kris Chan, Thomas E. L. Smith, Martin Wooster

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Remote sensing (RS) is a branch of methodologies associated with performing environmental monitoring from a distance, generally through measurements of naturally occurring or artificially generated electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that has interacted with the Earth’s environment. Earth Observation (EO) is a sub-domain of remote sensing, generally used to describe the study of the Earth from a height above the Earth’s surface. Earth orbiting satellites are now the most commonly used platform from which to collect RS data of the Earth, but aircraft or drone/Uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS)-mounted instruments, or even ground-based sensors, are also used (see Chapter 22). To transform remotely sensed data into meaningful datasets about the Earth’s systems or phenomena, a range of processing techniques exist. Whereas large-scale airborne remote sensing has been largely replaced by satellite remote sensing, the advancement of consumer electronics such as drones and dedicated environmental sensors has opened the possibility for more bespoke remote sensing, enabling high-resolution remote sensing to be conducted at a fraction of the cost of a major satellite launch, with increased flexibility of data collection windows and overpass time. Simultaneously, advancements in cloud-processing have unlocked Remote Sensing from being a tool only capable of use by experts with specialised equipment and software to being accessible by researchers and individuals with low-specification computers and an internet connection. As the history and developments outlined in this chapter illustrate, RS and EO are comparatively young disciplines which remain rapidly evolving.

This chapter is organized into the following sections:
• Introduction
• Remote sensing fundamentals
• Overview of Earth Observation
• Historical development of EO missions, sensors, and platforms
• Image processing for Earth Observation
• Key missions and datasets in contemporary analysis
• Conclusion
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKey Methods in Geography
EditorsNicholas Clifford, Meghan Cope, Thomas Gillespie, Shaun French
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages488
Edition4th edition (2023)
ISBN (Electronic)9781529613797
ISBN (Print)9781529772098, 9781529772081
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2023


  • Remote Sensing
  • Earth Observation
  • Satellite Analysis
  • Environmental Change


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