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Summer 2006
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Trends in Remote Sensing

Remote Sensing Comes of Age with GIS

Today, the age of imagery as a component of GIS has arrived. We not only have widely available, high-resolution remote-sensing images from earth-orbiting spacecraft but also a rich selection of data derived from airborne sensors, such as lidar and other advanced hyperspectral imaging systems. We're seeing an exponential growth in the coverage and availability of imagery for every place on the planet. Computers and networks are getting faster, and we can store much more imagery and make it available across networks. In 10 years, computer speed, storage devices, and networks will increase in ways that will make today's systems seem anti-quated by comparison. We'll have more imagery in real time, streaming down from drones and many other types of instruments.

Today, server-based image services can handle tens of thousands of files in continuous maps of image information. We can exploit the analysis of imagery with highly sophisticated classification engines. The emergence of new tools to extract features in mono- and stereoscopic environments results in faster and higher resolution imagery, thereby providing a more thorough understanding of the earth. New tools better integrate this data with standard vector spatial data. This means that imagery has become a major and dominant source of spatially referenced information for the GIS community.

GIS technology now integrates remotely acquired image data in more effective ways that make it synergistic with the other data domains. We can leverage remote-sensing data with GIS for measurement and observation and for spatial analysis, visualization, and decision support. The accumulation of spatial data will bring better links of imagery to spatial analysis models and more temporal modeling. Improved GIS tools will integrate with multidimensional datasets. The bottom line is that technology—the observation tools and software and networks and computers—will inevitably support more imagery about any place on earth, from every place on earth.

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