Talks and Poster Presentations (without Proceedings-Entry):
"From Research to Operational Remote Sensing Applications - Opportunities and Challenges";
Keynote Lecture: GESEM 2009 - International Conference on Geo-spatial Solutions for Emergency Management,
Beijing, China (invited);
Remote sensing is a technological discipline that has always striven to make best use of the latest sensor
technology to deliver useful geospatial information for an ever increasing user community. The recent
success of using remote sensing technology to empower public and private organisations to better deal
with natural disasters, such as in the case of the Wenchuan Earthquake in China in May 2008, is just one
example of the steadily growing number of remote sensing applications.
Because of its strong technical foundation there has always been a strong link between the scientific
and the industrial remote sensing communities. Yet, the transition from research to operational
remote sensing applications is not always easy. Unrealistic expectations, lack of robustness of scientific
algorithms, exponential growth of data volumes, prohibitive pricing and data policies, and discontinuity
of space programmes are just a few of the problems which may delay, and in some cases even stall, the
operational implementation of remote sensing techniques.
Based on the example of two very different remote sensing technologies some of the opportunities
and challenges faced by the remote sensing community will be illustrated. The first example is from
the field of microwave remote sensing of soil moisture, which has been an active area of research
since the 1970s. Suitable satellite systems that could have been used for setting up operational soil
moisture services would have been available since the beginning of the 1980s, yet, only in 2008 the first
operational near-real-time soil moisture service based on METOP ASCAT data was started by EUMETSAT.
The other example is drawn from the field of small-footprint airborne laser scanning, which was quickly
adopted in the mid-1990s as a tool for terrain mapping. In 2004 a new generation of laser scanners
with the capability of registering the full backscattered waveform were introduced into the market. Yet,
the potential benefits of the full-waveform technology are as of yet only partially realised. These two
examples illustrate that sensor technology is usually ahead of its time and that the bottleneck to optimal
operational use often lies in the scientific algorithms for processing of higher-level data products and
the IT infrastructure required for this task. Thus, putting more weight on algorithmic research and IT
infrastructure development could in general be expected to facilitate and speed up the transition from
research to operational remote sensing applications.
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