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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: EEEM033 Module Title: SATELLITE REMOTE SENSING
Module Provider: Electronic Engineering Short Name: EEM.SRS
Level: M Module Co-ordinator: GUIDA R Dr (Elec Eng)
Number of credits: 15 Number of ECTS credits: 7.5
Module Availability


Assessment Pattern

Components of Assessment
Percentage Weighting
2 hour written closed book examination.
One large assignment
Part-time Students:
As above                   As above

Qualifying Condition(s) 


A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module.
Module Overview

Earth ad planetary observation with remote sensing data is playing a key role in the present understanding of natural phenomena, prevention of disasters, resources monitoring, comprehension of origins of life.


Through a series of lectures, seminars, open discussions and “thinking breaks” in class, the module aims to give an introduction to the scientific principles of remote sensing – both passive and active – as carried out by spacecraft. Remote sensing is discussed in terms of instrumentation, missions, products and applications.


The module forms a key part of the MSc programme in Space Technology and Planetary Exploration (STPE) and, for the undergraduate MEng programme, it builds upon the HE3 material in Spacecraft Missions (EE3.spm).


Completion of the progress requirements of Level HE3 for undergraduates.
None for postgraduate taught students

Module Aims

To introduce the student to remote sensing principles, the physical interactions of radiation with atmosphere and Earth’s features, processing of remotely sensed data and development of applications for Earth’s resources management and monitoring.

Learning Outcomes
By the end of the module, students will:
  • Have an in-depth understanding of the interactions of radiation with the earth’s surface and atmosphere and be able to apply this knowledge to develop new sensors for application specific problems.
  • Be capable analysing the requirements for any application of remote sensing, evaluate the methods to apply and suggest indirect alternatives in cases where direct measurements are not possible. Coursework will allow the student to explore scenarios and develop novel solutions to application problems. 
  • Be given the opportunity to develop imaginative solutions to real world problems and will be given the freedom to develop and present them in a suitably technical framework, defined within the course.
  • Be capable of carrying out systematic research related to the coursework, manage the data and present it in a suitable manner for a non-technical audience. Coursework will provide the student the opportunity for problem solving for a complete application, covering all aspects from the detailed observation and design to the overview required for the presentation of the full application results.
Module Content




Introduction to Remote Sensing: Radiometry, Electromagnetic Spectrum, Radiant and Spectral quantities, Blackbodies, Planck law, Stefan-Boltzmann law, Wien displacement law.


Energy Interactions: Physics of interactions, interactions in the atmosphere (influence factors, mechanisms, effects), interactions at the Earth’s surface (the energy balance, different kinds of reflectors). Mechanisms of reflection, transmission, absorbance, scattering (Rayleigh, Mie, Non-selective).


Data acquisition and interpretation: Data acquisition, data analysis, reference data, calibration.


Sensors and Platforms: Active and Passive systems, Spatial Resolution, Spectral Resolution, Swath Width, Coverage (Along-track scanner, Across-track scanner), Nadir, Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR), Payload design (Factors and Limitations), Orbits (Apogee and Perigee, Eccentricity, Orbital Period and Speed, Ascending and Descending Node, Inclination, Shape and Altitude, Geostationary Earth Orbits, Sun-Synchronous Orbits). Examples of some missions: LANDSAT program, SPOT program, NOAA program.






Radar Remote Sensing: Viewing geometry, Antenna Beam. Signal properties in Time Domain (Continuous wave CW and Pulsed wave PW) and Frequency domains, (Spectrum for CW and PW). Linear Frequency Modulation. Range and Doppler discrimination. Geometric distortions (Foreshortening, Layover, Shadow). Real Aperture Radar (RAR), Radar Equation (Bistatic and Monostatic), Swath width, Range resolution, Azimuth resolution, Signal Fading (speckle).


Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR): Synthetic-Array approach, Doppler-Synthesis approach, lower and upper bounds for PRF. Configurations: stripmap, spotlight, hybrid, scansar. SAR Missions and Applications. Interferometry SAR. Scatterometer: basic principles. Altimeter: basic principles.






Image Processing and GIS: Image rectification and restoration (Geometric correction, Radiometric correction, Noise removal); Image enhancement (Contrast manipulation, Spatial feature manipulation, Multi-image manipulation). Image classification (supervised and unsupervised), classifiers. Data merging: principles. Geographic Information System (GIS): definitions, concept of Geographical Data, Geometrical Data, Attribute Data, definition of map, organization of information in a map, applications

Methods of Teaching/Learning

Teaching is by lectures, tutorials and open discussions in class. For each lecture students will be provided with notes including all the topics introduced. Critical skills will be sharpened with discussion and interpretation of remote sensing images in class. 3 hours lectures /tutorials /examples classes per week for 10 weeks.


For the coursework students will be asked to prepare in group of 3 or 4 a Podcast describing a given remote sensing application, the required instrumentation, the present limits and the future challenges. Individual contribution will be assessed by means of a form filled by the other components in the group.


Selected Texts/Journals

Recommended background reading

Thomas M. Lillesand, Ralph W. Kiefer, Jonathan W. Chipman, Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation, 6th Edition, John Wiley and Sons, New York 2008, 768 pages.


Charles Elachi, Jakob J. van Zyl, Introduction To The Physics and Techniques of Remote Sensing, 2nd Edition, John Wiley and Sons, New York 2006, 584 pages.



Last Updated

30th July 2009