Swift Geospatial is more than a GIS company. We create valuable solutions in order to address pertinent problems across multiple industries by implementing the incredible technology available in the GIS and remote sensing sector. In essence, we provide spatial based data to clients that are looking to use that data in their decision making. To some it may seem supernatural, so we thought we would explain in more detail what it is that we do.   

Following our previous article, ‘Geography is cooler than you think: it’s changing the world;’ we delved into just how GIS may be used as a tool in your business to make better decisions, and how this can very well contribute towards saving our vulnerable planet. 

Building on from that; the purpose of this article is to explore remote sensing in more depth. Yes, we want to empower you, our readers, current and prospective clients in order to gain a better understanding of just how this powerful GIS data is captured and used to create the solutions we offer as a decision support tool. 

Allow us to introduce our best ally at Swift Geospatial- the very keystone that powers our company. Enter remote sensing technology- where the answers you may need for the bigger picture of a given focus area may come to your very desktop. Yes- all within the comfort of your chair, and without having to abandon that steaming mug of coffee. 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.  Ultimately, this is a time-savvy, money-saving tool for responsible decision-makers.

What is remote sensing?

In simple  terms; remote sensing uses sensors which are installed on satellites (passive sensors) or mounted on aircraft or drones, otherwise known as UAV’s (active sensors), enabling them to take measurements of the earth. These sensors collect the imagery and data needed, which is collected and collated. What we refer to as the ‘Superhero of Geospatial Technology;’ remote sensing acquires emitted and reflected electromagnetic (EM) radiation from the Earth’s surface in order to detect and monitor the physical characteristics of an area- all without actually making physical contact. 

One of remote sensing’s superpowers lies in the fact that it can pick up every single object’s unique spectral signature (depending on its chemical composition), which is the amount of reflected energy in a certain wavelength within the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). This allows us to pick up frequencies that, for example, assist us to identify species, detect unhealthy crops and to pick up algae blooms – way before the human eye can, and before it’s even too late.

Ultimately, the data that we capture is further manipulated, analyzed and represented in innovative, customised ways in order for our clients to gain a deeper understanding of the study in question. All in a very time-savvy (and therefore intensely cost-saving) manner. From mining attributes to agricultural studies, to forestry monitoring to insurance to conservation studies and even encroachment monitoring (whew!) – we’ve got you covered. 

Active vs passive remote sensing

As mentioned; there are two forms in which remote sensing may be carried through. Allow us to explain:

Active remote sensing involves the use of aircraft or drones. This is helpful for projects that require particularly high resolution, more concise imagery in strategic, pinpointed locations. In the case of drones, however, it is important to bear in mind that legal obligations such as permits are required and certain areas (such as urban areas) are prohibited. More commonly carried out as a once-off event (of course this can be routine scheduled, however), active remote sensing is more applicable for smaller-scale study areas.

Passive remote sensing refers to acquiring the information needed through satellite imagery. For larger scale projects requiring a broader overview; this is the answer. Satellite imagery offers a more sensitive source of change detection through the simple fact that the imagery is captured and updated every single day (which is made possible through our partner and supplier, Planet). Directly plugging into autonomous, customised dashboards that display this change detection on a daily basis; we do confess that we are biased towards this method in that this empowers our clients to respond in an immediate, timeous manner in times of emergency.

Importance of Remote Sensing

Back to remote sensing’s superpowers. Yet another aspect that makes it so compelling is its ability to collect data from dangerous or even inaccessible areas. What is more, during the era of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in on-and-off lockdown situations; remotely monitoring a given study area is becoming more and more applicable given the current world-wide status. 

Replacing  slower, costly data collection on the ground with fast and repetitive coverage of extremely large areas for everyday applications, we cannot emphasize more that this is the future of responsible decision-making and disaster management.

As an unobstructive (and fuel-efficient) strategy, remote sensing allows users to collect data and perform processing and GIS analysis offsite without disturbing the very target area or object. Monitoring floods and forest fires, deforestation, crop health, encroachment, various mining aspects and even rhinos, remote sensing provides not only a global perspective, but leads accountable decision-makers towards actionable insights that would otherwise be unattainable. 

In conclusion

Remote sensing provides vital information that improves critical decision making across industries such as agriculture, forestry, mining and city management. To find these solutions, we at Swift Geospatial are always in search of problems within industries in order to ascertain where our technology is able to provide answers. 

So if you have questions regarding GIS, remote sensing and the solutions they are able to provide, or you think you have a problem within a certain industry that is not currently being addressed, please do send us an email and let’s start creating incredible remote sensing solutions.