October 11th, 2018 by Katrina Engelsted
The rise of commercial drone technology has benefited many companies in numerous ways. One of the most significant ways these companies have benefitted is through remote sensing. Drone inspection services have made remote sensing more accessible than ever. UAV remote sensing solutions have hundreds of uses. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is remote sensing used for?” so that you may identify whether it could be beneficial to your industry.
What Is Remote Sensing?
Before analyzing its uses, it’s critical to first come up with a remote sensing definition. According to the United States Geological Survey, remote sensing is “the process of detecting and monitoring the physical characteristics of an area by measuring its reflected and emitted radiation at a distance from the targeted area.” While that definition is quite a mouthful, we will try to break it down so the rest of us can capture what it means.
In terms of drone technology, this involves flying a drone outfitted with a camera or other sensor types in a manner that allows it to capture data about the earth below. UAV remote sensing solutions can provide a comprehensive overview of the land or infrastructure below. Not only can these cameras and sensors provide data related to topography and other surface features, but also detect topography statistics, but they can also provide things such as water temperature or the movement of dust clouds.
The type of data that remote sensing equipment collects depends on the type of sensor(s) on the drone and the data types needed to guide decision-making. Sensors are typically either “passive” or “active” which describes the method by which the sensor collects data. Passive remote sensing equipment is employed when there is a need to sense external stimuli. Passive sensors record the energy that is emitted from the Earth’s surface naturally, such as temperature, vibrations or radiation from reflected sunlight.
With active sensors, the equipment relies on internal stimuli to collect information about the Earth. One example of an active sensor is LiDAR, which is a scanning laser system that rapidly emits lasers in an array, and monitors how long it takes for the laser to reflect off the Earth or other objects in its path and back to the sensor. The data collected provides a detailed look at the form of the earth or structures below.
Some sensor types are a hybrid of passive and active remote sensing. In the photography world, a camera with a flash is a perfect example of a hybrid sensor. The camera emits a flash of light which is reflected off of an object, then captured through the lens. In most cases, the camera on an unmanned aerial system does not use a flash and is therefore a passive sensor.
Because drone technology is relatively new, many companies fail to recognize just how beneficial UAV remote sensing solutions can be. When it comes to remote sensing solutions, it’s crucial to think outside the box. Below, you’ll find some of the most creative uses for remote sensing technology.
Determining Soil Moisture Content
Knowing how much moisture is in the soil is beneficial for many reasons. It helps engineers in the construction industry who are looking to break ground on a new project and are trying to determine the type of machinery they’ll need based on the soil moisture content and overall site conditions.
Having an idea of soil moisture levels could also benefit those in the oil and gas pipeline industry who are looking to monitor for erosion caused by rainfall to asses how sensitive an area may be to runoff. Companies can determine soil moisture levels by using both passive and active sensors which may be mounted in fixed positions on the ground or on an aerial platform such as a drone.
Identifying Areas That Are Prone To Flooding
Another way that companies can use remote sensing technology is to identify areas that are prone to flooding. This information not only serves to benefit the construction industry but could also help insurance companies as well. With remote sensing solutions, companies can not only identify areas that are flood-prone but how bad these areas are likely to be affected and the damage that would occur as a result.
Tracking Wind Levels
Those who work with wind turbines know how crucial tracking the weather is, considering that the day’s weather directly impacts how much power can be harnessed in a given day. Remote sensing solutions can help measure wind speed and direction so that energy companies can influence both short-term and long-term changes with respect to the performance of their equipment.
Identifying Mineral Composition
The mining and resource extraction industries employ remote sensing solutions to determine the mineral composition of potential areas of operation. Similar to monitoring the soil moisture content, understanding subsurface mineral composition is critical to understanding the feasibility and economic opportunity associated with a particular site. Minerals and rocks have different chemical compositions and densities, which are easy to identify with remote sensors.
Some rocks are more difficult to dig through than others. Thanks to remote sensors, companies can alter the location of their dig sites, or come up with a proper plan of action to break ground in a particular area. There’s nothing worse than the surprise of not having the equipment necessary to complete the project, or damaging equipment when the improper tools are employed for drilling. Remote sensing solutions reduce the chances of this happening significantly.
Assessing Terrain Stability
Remote sensing solutions are also beneficial for a process called interferometry. This process involves using sensors to measure land deformation and slip. When the oil and gas pipeline industry uses interferometry measurements, they can better improve their safety standards. These measurements not only help to ensure that pipelines are fully operational, but that they are keeping up with regulations set forth by government entities.
SolSpec Remote Sensing Services
Here at SolSpec, we use passive RGB cameras to capture visual data that is analyzed for slip and revegetation of pipeline rights-of-way. This provides our oil and gas clients the data they need to mitigate slips before they become extensive, and receive feedback for faster revegetation.
The world of drones and remote sensing is an exciting integration of technology to solve real-world problems. We invite you to check out our Facebook page and see all the cool things we are doing with UAV technology.