Remote Sensing: Adopting modern technology for Africa

Remote sensing satellites gather information about the earth’s surface by measuring electromagnetic radiation.
This satellite technology carries the sensors that help to acquire information about an object without physically coming in contact with the object.
Altitude, orbit and sensor are the three vital characteristics of a remote sensing satellite.
In modern usage, remote sensing satellites generally refers to the use of aerial sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth (both on the surface, and in the atmosphere and oceans) by means of propagated signals (eg electromagnetic radiation emitted from aircraft or satellites).
It is also critical to note that there are two main types of remote sensing: passive remote sensing and active remote sensing.
Passive sensors detect natural radiation that is emitted or reflected by the object or surrounding areas.
Reflected sunlight is the most common source of radiation measured by passive sensors. Examples of passive remote sensors include infrared, charge-coupled devices and radiometers.
Active collection, on the other hand, emits energy in order to scan objects and areas whereupon a sensor then detects and measures the radiation that is reflected or backscattered from the target.
RADAR and LiDAR are examples of active remote sensing where the time delay between emission and return is measured, establishing the location, speed and direction of an object.
Consequently, remote sensing satellites make it possible to collect data on dangerous or inaccessible areas.
Again, the radiation detected can give information about the chemical and physical make-up of the surface, particularly soil.
Therefore, the African continent should embrace remote sensing satellites to survey land resources, estimate agricultural yield and prevent and/or reduce natural disasters.
In a continent ravaged by climate change, remote sensing satellites can be especially useful because of their ability to retrieve soil data.
Olivier Dewitte of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre urged African countries to adopt remote sensing satellites and says soil data is directly appropriate to different safety measures.
Dewitte said, “Accurate up-to-date data on soil conditions are directly applicable to food security planning, food alleviation and risk assessment and waste management.”
Ultimately, remote sensing satellite systems can more efficiently survey the state, characteristics and threat to the soils. This is extremely useful in developing early warning systems for droughts, erosion and other natural disasters.
Furthermore, adopting modern remote sensing satellites can help the continent not only in improving its safety measures but also to come up with policies that can help in alleviating socio-economic problems.
Without a speck of doubt, remote sensing satellite has a growing relevance in the modern information society.
It represents a key technology as part of the aerospace industry and bears increasing economic relevance ‑ new sensors.
Furthermore, remote sensing exceedingly influences everyday life, ranging from weather forecasts to reports on climate change or natural disasters.
Thus, African countries need to further invest heavily in remote sensing satellites and education to develop a skilled workforce.
Meanwhile, in order to have accurate, up-to-date information, Africa needs affordable access to low-resolution data that can be surveyed quickly.
The continent also needs remote sensing satellite systems that will regularly cover soil resources on the local, regional and continental level. The systems should be coordinated with both local and regional data.
Therefore, policy-makers and researchers in the continent should use existing remotely sensed data and apply it to soil analysis.
More so, they should partner with other experts in the field of remote sensing satellite such as Chinese researchers.
Writer Andrea Park said, “China has been a pioneer in using remote sensing satellites to monitor its soil conditions in an accurate and up-to-date fashion that would be useful for African policy-makers.
Since remote sensing can provide humanitarian workers in the continent a tool for planning relief operations and can aid Africa in understanding about where future disasters may occur, policy makers in the continent must critically embrace this technology.
Already, remote satellite images are being used worldwide to determine food security through the measurement of rainfall and the growth of vegetation and remote sensors have numerous applications for the humanitarian community, however before their capabilities to be fully utilised, there needs to be an increase in dialogue between humanitarians and technical experts in the African continent.
Political leaders in the continent need to gain a deeper understanding of available space capabilities and technical experts working within the space field also need to be aware of how this technology could be applied in the African context.

 

May 2013
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