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What Are the Best Remote Sensing Techniques for Civil Engineering?

Remote sensing techniques are invaluable to a wide variety of fields, including civil engineering, geological investigations, climatology, agriculture and oil exploration. It’s a viable technique for monitoring natural resources, detecting the presence of various substances and determining the long-term impact on local environments, including land, water and air.

If you want to know how fast the coastal regions are eroding, remote sensing can help. It can also find oil, rare resources or other minerals, as well as detect natural hazards, archaeological sites, and underground tunnels or caverns. It is an extremely powerful and useful environmental monitoring solution.

What are some of the best remote sensing techniques that professionals can exploit and deploy? Which strategies have the most success in civil engineering? Here’s what to expect now and in the near future.

Remote Sensing in Civil Engineering

While the related technologies do have a sweeping impact on many industries, remote sensing is indispensable in the field of civil engineering. After all, you cannot develop, build or format a worksite without knowing everything you can about the terrain, geology, drainage and hydrology. You need to know and understand all-natural elements and factors about a particular location.

Geographic information system mapping, or GIS technology, is a prime example of remote sensing techniques in action. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries describes it as a system “designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present all types of geographical data.”

What can it do, and how does it apply to civil engineering?

1. Site Analysis

Project or potential job site analysis is a huge part of civil engineering, and GIS technologies will analyze the surface specifications as well as everything unseen. The result is an accurate terrain mapping and analysis solution that digs deeper under the surface to find obstacles, materials and more. It makes management so much simpler and more effective, as you can know all there is about a development site before breaking any ground.

The most important thing to consider is that the analysis can be done remotely, which enables so many possibilities. When combined with other technologies, the insights are even more impactful. For example, spectrometers help measure UV, visible and NIR wavelengths in the field. NASA uses devices like them, and other remote sensing tech, to analyze objects and locations in outer space.

2. Urban Planning and Development

You cannot expand urban regions without understanding the surrounding environment. It’s vital to assess the area to factor in freshwater supplies, pollution and potential ground contamination. Remote sensing technologies can also aid in examining existing structures and layouts.

Other facets include smarter electrochemistry planning, especially for sanitation, ecological awareness and sustainability planning.

3. Infrastructure Management

Successful engineering relies heavily on smart and aware planning, taking into account many different factors about the surrounding area. Whether you’re talking about building out water supply structures, power plants or even roadways, you need to know how they affect and connect to nearby areas. 

For example, placing a power plant too far away from a particular area may mitigate the positive effects it has. That could render the entire project useless if it was being developed to service a problematic region.

GIS systems provide invaluable data management and visualization opportunities to improve builds, optimize placement and location, and understand surrounding communities, even beyond just the natural elements.

4. Natural Disaster Plotting

Disasters happen, and while it’s not a central role of civil engineering projects, preparedness is still important during development and planning. Using remote sensing techniques, engineers can better understand potential problems with the surrounding environment like landslides, flooding and even earthquakes. What kind of damage is to be expected, and how will it affect the surrounding infrastructure? 

With the help of GIS and remote sensing technologies, massive damage events can be avoided through better positioning and planning. The tools can help define where and how events might play out on a limited scale.

5. Developing Construction Requirements

If you’re placing a building or structure on a slope, certain requirements need to be met to ensure its stability and safety and plan for future events — like erosion and ground movements. Remote sensing technologies provide a lay of the land and develop proper project and construction requirements. 

You can use the technology to discern unstable areas, learn about natural movements, understand what might occur in the future and boost stability overall. Maybe a completely flat ground surface isn’t the best idea for the current location. A slightly elevated surface might provide proper groundwater runoff or prevent flooding, for example. These are exactly the kind of considerations project managers and planners must incorporate, and that cannot happen without remote sensing.

6. Structural Efficiency

You can employ remote sensing to better understand how a structure will be used and how efficient it will be. Everything from the lighting to the power requirements of a facility can be modelled to create more accurate representations and studies of buildings — whether already standing or currently in development.

This informs more optimized and successful development planning. When buildings are created, they can take advantage of maximum efficiency environmentally, physically and in resource consumption.

More Informed Civil Engineering Projects

Ultimately, remote sensing techniques and technologies can deliver precisely the kind of information needed to build a stable, safe and long-lasting structure or facility. That includes other infrastructure like roads and utilities. Because of how versatile and powerful the techniques are, civil engineers can dig deep, uncovering all there is to know about a location and its surrounding areas. 

This empowers future projects and leads to smarter decisions and better builds, with precise construction requirements and optimized specifications to vastly improve conformity. Remote sensing will pave the way for successful civil engineering projects.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at
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