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What is Hyperspectral Remote Sensing?

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  • Written By: Solomon Branch
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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Hyperspectral remote sensing, also known as imaging spectroscopy, is the use of hyperspectral imaging from a moving sensory device, such as a satellite, to gather data about a specific location of interest. This type of imaging is a technology that can detect electromagnetic frequencies beyond the range of the human eye, such as the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums. Data gathered using hyperspectral remote sensing allows for detection of certain elements on the earth or changes taking place within these elements, as these elements give off a certain spectral signature, and is done over a wide distance and large areas.

The use of hyperspectral imaging is very helpful in detecting almost anything that gives off a spectral signature, a unique electromagnetic wavelength an item gives off. Hyperspectral imaging can gather a visual representation of the range of spectral signatures and put them in a practical form. Typically, each image taken shows one band of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the images are put together to from a three dimensional model. This allows for easy comparison to a known spectral signature, such as the type crude oil generates, or a specific change that takes place, such as ground movement over time.

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Practical uses of hyperspectral remote sensing are very vast. Unlike hyperspectral imaging done on the ground, remote sensing can cover a large area in less time. With the advent of more sensitive sensors, the data gathered with hyperspectral remote sensing can now be comparable in quality to imaging done on the ground.

The main use for this technology was, until recently, limited to the mineral industry, and used most notably the oil industry for detecting new oil fields. It is now used in several areas such as agriculture, where it is can be used to determine if a crop is failing or what type of crops are producing and which aren’t. The ecology, geology, and forestry also use this type of imaging. It is also used in the field of physics and offers more detailed analysis and improvements over traditional methods of observation.

One other notable use for hyperspectral remote sensing is in the field of surveillance, especially military surveillance. In modern times, there are many ways to avoid being detected and to hide military installations, weapons, or people. The detail available in hyperspectral remote sensing allows for most anything to be detected, as at least some of the spectral bands will be able to pick up some form of data from a scanned area.

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