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Remote Sensing and Technology
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Remote Sensing in the NPS

Remotely sensed data is used by NPS for many purposes, primarily in collaborative projects with USGS, NASA, and academic institutions. These include mapping vegetation and surface geology, monitoring coastal change, and monitoring land use changes that impact park resources. The National Interagency Fire Center is using remotely sensed data to evaluate the extent and magnitude of burns, and they are using historical images to create a fire history atlas that will extend back to 1980. Because parks include large areas where access is difficult or dangerous, remote sensing is an attractive and economical means to monitor key resources. Remote sensing permits NPS to monitor areas that cannot otherwise be accessed, and it provides a means to extrapolate point measurements across the landscape. Within the NPS, the Inventory and Monitoring Program, Geological Resources Division, and Fire Program have a suite of projects to evaluate and further develop the use of remotely sensed data to better manage Parks. The cultural resource program is using information from remotely sensed data to study rates and types of change and potential land preservation strategies for American Revolutionary War battlefields endangered by urban expansion and development.

Remote sensing is simply measuring objects from a distance, where the measuring device is not in direct contact with the object being measured. Remote sensing devices can be active or passive. Active devices emit electromagnetic radiation and measure reflectance (or lack of reflectance) from an object. These include active systems like: radar, LIDAR, sonar devices that detect fish or water depth, and medical imaging devices. Passive systems measure ambient electromagnetic radiation emitted from an object. Passive devices include airborne photography, most satellite-based sensors, and photography (without a flash).

Most broadly defined, remotely sensed data includes any measurement made from a distance. This definition can include sounds, smells, and other types of observations, but this site focuses on data that can usually be displayed as an image.  NPS most commonly uses data from sensors that measure spectral attributes in the visible and near-visible range, and these data are usually acquired from airplane or satellite-mounted sensors. Data from both passive and active sensors are routinely used by NPS.

Use of remotely sensed data clearly will be increasingly important to NPS. The goal of this web site and of the Remote Sensing Subcommittee is to facilitate and improve use of RS data by:

  • Informing NPS staff and collaborators of recent news and coming events,
  • Providing focused, easy-to-use information on data sources,
  • Providing information on readily-available education resources and example applications,
  • Posting summaries of software used for processing and analysis RS data, and
  • Providing information on training opportunities.

For more information on the remote sensing subcommittee contact David Duran.

Email Last modified on 06/27/2006