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Introduction to Remote Sensing

Michelle Kinzel
San Diego Mesa College
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This course introduces students to the basics of remote sensing, characteristics of remote sensors, and
remote sensing applications in academic disciplines and professional industries. Emphasis is placed on
image acquisition and data collection in the electromagnetic spectrum and data set manipulations. This
course is designed for geographic information systems (GIS) students interested in imagery analysis.

Institution Type
Two Year College

Course Size


Grade Level
College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Course Context

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites and is designed for GIS professionals enrolled in the GIS Certificate or Associate Degree in GIS Programs. These courses are designed for working professionals and are taught in both an online format and a face-to-face environment.

Course Content

Remote Sensing and GIS - Course Outline

A. Remote Sensing Defined
B. Applications of Remote Sensing
C. Basic Processes

I. A brief history of remote sensing for earth observation
A. History of photography
B. Digital images
C. Evolution of platforms
D. Sensor Characteristics
II. Remote Sensing Basics
A. Remote Sensing Data Collection
B. Remote Sensing Process
C. Earth Observations
D. Electromagnetic Radiation
E. Atmospheric Energy-Matter Interactions
III. Frame Captured Sensors and Line Scanners
Frame Capture
1. Photographic Cameras
2. Digital Cameras
3. Videography
1. Across-track Scanners
2. Along-track Scanners
3. Hyperspectral Scanners

IV. Satellite-based Sensors in Visible and Infrared Wavelengths
A. Low-spatial Resolution Sensors
B. Medium-spatial Resolution Sensors
C. High-spatial Resolution Sensors
V. Active Sensors: Radar and Lidar
A. Active Microwave (RADAR) Remote Sensing
B. Radar Interferometry
C. Passive Microwave Radiometers
1. Lidar Principles
2. Lidar-derived Vegetation Information
3. Lidar-derived Urban Information
VI. Sonar
A. Side-scan sonar
B. Multibeam sonar
C. Global Seafloor Topography
VII. Aerial Imagery – Visual Interpretation
A. Nature of Aerial Images
Ground Verification and Processing
1. Control Points
2. Ground Truthing
VIII. GIS Integration
A. Raster to Vector
B. Image Formats
IX. Remote Sensing Applications
A. Agriculture
B. Forestry
C. Geology
D. Oceanography
E. Archaeology
F. Military
G. Urban Infrastructure

Course Goals

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to....
1. Define and describe remote sensing and explain its applications and history.
2. Define and describe basics of electromagnetic spectrum and interactions with various types of media.
3. Describe sensors and image acquisition methods.
4. Analyze and explain remote sensing purposes, advantages, and limitations.
5. Describe basic characteristics of remote sensing imagery.
6. Describe industry-specific image sources.


There will be weekly discussion sessions that will serve as question and answer periods and for technical assistance. Each discussion session will be a virtual office hour hosted by the professor, and will allow students the opportunity to earn credit for participating, assisting other students, and showing progress in both reading assignments and laboratory exercises.


I. Imagery analysis and image data processing assignments.
II. Written responses on tests, quizzes, essay questions and assignments.
III. Participation in class discussions, online chats, and group projects.
IV. A culminating project presented in class.
V. Class participation.

Teaching Notes

Adaptations have been made that allow this course to be successful in an online environment

The use of virtual online sessions, such as Eluminate, will allow students access to the professor, as well as encourage group participation and peer to peer learning.

The most successful elements of this course are:

I have not taught this course yet, so I do not know.

Recommendations for faculty who teach a course like this:


Syllabus for Remote Sensing (Acrobat (PDF) 85kB Jun25 10)



Aronoff, Stan. Remote Sensing for GIS Managers, ESRI Press, 2005, ISBN: 9781589480810

Other References

1. ITT Visual Information Solutions. ENVI-EX Online Tutorial, ITT Visual Information Solutions,
2. ITT Visua

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