Five Applications of Satellite Data



Remote sensing data provides much essential and critical information for monitoring many applications such as image fusion, change detection, and land cover classification. Remote sensing is an important technique to obtain information relating to the Rarth’s resources and environment.

What popularized satellite data are the easily accessed online mapping applications like Google Earth and Bing Maps. From being simply able to find “where is my house” these applications have helped the GIS community in project planning, monitoring disasters and natural calamities, and guiding civil defense people.

Remotely sensed satellite images and data are comprised of spectral, spatial and temporal resolution. Spectral statistics is the substance of remotely sensed image classification. The main aspect which influences the accuracy of ground object is spatial resolution. Temporal resolution will help in generation of land cover maps for environmental planning, land use change detection and transportation planning. Data assimilation and analysis of urban areas using medium resolution remote sensing imagery is mainly concentrated on documentation of built up areas or for judgement between residential, commercial and industrial zones.

There are hundreds of applications for satellite imagery and remotely sensed data. From the pioneering Landsat and SPOT imagery and when nations used to use information derived from the satellite imagery for spying on each other under the guise of scientific experiments, industry has grown in leap and bounds and today every sphere of life, government decision making, civil defense operations, police, you name the sphere of life, every one of which is influenced by satellite imagery in particular and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in general.

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SBL has been active in the field of satellite imagery processing and has got in-house expertise to handle any kind of sensor and product demands. Our projects have helped clients world over to help in having a better say in sustainability management and environmental assessment and management. To illustrate the benefits, here are five uses of satellite imagery and data.

1. Optimizing solar panel energy output with irradiance values.

Sustainable living has lot of interest in solar energy and it interest is growing rapidly across the world. Finding out location for placement of solar panels and If you were to choose a single position anywhere on Earth to install a solar panel, then we have to use Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) map. GHI measures the rate of total incoming solar energy at the Earth’s surface in watts per square kilometer. Epochs of satellite data (derived from GOES and Meteosat) has created this data with a standard error of only 5%.

Global map of Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI).  Map:
Global map of Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI). Map:

2. Generating Earth’s surface elevation with the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission

The SRTM digital elevation data, produced by NASA originally, is a major breakthrough in digital mapping of the world, and provides a major advance in the accessibility of high quality elevation data for large portions of the tropics and other areas of the developing world. From the Global Land Cover Facility:

The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) obtained elevation data on a near-global scale to generate the most complete high-resolution digital topographic database of Earth. SRTM consisted of a specially modified radar system that flew onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour during an 11-day mission in February of 2000. SRTM is an international project spearheaded by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), NASA, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Map of Chile generated with topography from SRTM.
Map of Chile generated with topography from SRTM. Map: RAVL, 2008, Wikimedia Commons.  

3. Extracting mineral deposits with remote sensing based spectral analysis

During the pre feasibility and feasibility stages of the mineral exploration it is very essential to know the mineral potentiality of the area under consideration. In such scenario satellite remote sensing based lithological mapping, geological structural mapping, geomorphological mapping etc and its integration in a GIS platform will enable geo scientist to map the mineral potential zones. This will be further enhanced with the help of spectral analysis of satellite image bands to identify and map hydro thermal alteration zones which are indicators of mineral availability . This will enable exploration geologist to confine his geo physical, geo chemical and test drilling activities to high potential zones.

Geology map from SBL.
Geology map from SBL.

4. Providing a basemap for graphical reference and assisting planners and engineers

The amount of details that orthoimagery produces using high resolution satellite imagery is of immense value and provides an extreme amount of detail of the focus and surrounding areas. Maps are designed to communicate highly structured message about the world. As maps are location-based, aerial imagery supports people to orient themselves.

Aerial imagery from SBL.
Aerial imagery from SBL.

5. Disaster mitigation planning and recovery

The result of a natural calamity can be calamitous and at times difficult to assess. But a disaster risk assessment is essential for rescue workers. This has to be prepared and executed quickly and with accuracy. Object-based image classification using change detection (pre- and post-event) is a quick way to get damage assessments. Other similar applications using satellite imagery in disaster assessments include measuring shadows from buildings and digital surface models.


Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) – Global Land cover Facility (GLCF)

Solar Radiation Maps: Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI) –

About the Author

Anil Narendran Pillai – (Vice President – Geomatics @ SBL) Mr. Pillai heads the GSS (Geospatial Services) domain at SBL. He has worked in the digital mapping, remote sensing, and GIS industries for over 23 years. He has 23+ years experience managing and coordinating GIS projects and 12 years senior management experience. He has extensive experience in all aspects of aerial and satellite imaging technology and applications. He has utilized remotely sensed satellite and airborne imagery for a variety of environmental applications including site location analysis, forestry, telecommunications and utility corridor mapping. He has a strong background in management of GIS and Photogrammetry imaging projects to support Government and private industry needs.His Passion lies in Need Analysis and Documentation, Topographical Mapping (ArcGIS), Spatial Data Management, Integrity and Security, GIS Data transformations and projections from multiple sources, Image Processing Software user testing and documentation, Project Coordination and Tech. Support, Inter-agency communication and support, 3D Data Generation and Management,Project Management, Digital Photogrammetry, Satellite Image Processing, Pre-Sales Presentations.

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