An introduction to remote sensing

February 13, 2024

An introduction to remote sensing

In Episode #8 of the Carblecast, Sander Reuderink, CEO at Carble, talks with remote sensing expert Courage Kamusoko, who explains the basics of remote sensing. Courage answers questions like how remote sensing works and what you can and cannot measure. Watch the episode or read the blog below to learn more about remote sensing.

What is remote sensing? 

Let’s start with the basics. Because what’s the definition of remote sensing, and what does remote sensing entail? Remote sensing is the process of acquiring information about the subject without direct physical contact, typically using sensors on aircraft, drones, or satellites to collect data. 

Why would we want to do that and not just measure things out in the field? Because it’s cheaper and faster compared to manual methods, and it’s much easier to get global coverage.

The source

Remote sensing is a process starting with a source, which in many cases is the Sun. As satellites, aircraft, and drones with sensors fly over the Earth, they can only be put to use with the interaction of the Sun’s energy touching the Earth’s surface.

The Sun radiates energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, infrared, microwave, or other wavelengths. The emitted energy interacts with our target, an object, or a surface on Earth, and the response of our target can be threefold: it scatters, absorbs, or transmits the incoming energy.

How the energy interacts depends on the properties of our target, such as composition, structure, and conditions. Every object or surface we observe on Earth will output various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation in unique ways. The wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation are observed and recorded by two types of sensors within remote sensing: passive and active sensors.

Passive and active sensors

Passive sensors detect energy emitted or reflected from the environment around us. This is the sensor that uses the Sun as the source bouncing off the object or surface of the Earth and reflecting electromagnetic radiation waves toward the sensor.

Active sensors provide their own source of energy to illuminate the objects they observe. In other words, active sensors send out a pulse of energy to the Earth’s surface and detect the changes in the returning signal. The active sensor is a non-imaging sensor, unlike the passive sensor. 

What’s possible with remote sensing?

Remote sensing brings a myriad of benefits for coffee and cocoa importers, exporters, and brands needing to mitigate deforestation and reduce carbon emissions within supply chains. Our ‘Beginners Guide to Remote Sensing for Coffee & Cocoa Supply Chains’ gives you a concise but complete overview of how remote sensing works and how you can use this technology within your coffee and cocoa supply chains. You can download the guide here.

Questions after watching episode #8 or reading through the blog? Please reach out

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