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Environmental Science is the scientific study of the natural as well as the artificial environment, including the role of organisms in them. The environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s fueled the development of Environmental Sciences. It is an interdisciplinary field of science integrates natural sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, engineering and humanities in a broad holistic study of the world around us. Since Environmental science is a wide branch its researches are also wide like spatial.

The integration of spatial technologies in researches are the new trend in the field of Environmental Sciences. Remote Sensing, GIS, and GPS are the most important spatial technologies used in the area of Environmental Sciences. Those spatial technologies are used for inventory, planning, management, environmental protection and environmental emergency management and are now becoming essential to the study of any spatial phenomena. Therefore, spatial technologies had a long association with Environmental sciences. Spatial technologies provide better, faster and unique ways of examining spatial phenomena that could happen in the environment. Spatial technologies depend on a number of interrelated disciplines and technologies such as computer science, Mathematics, Information Science, and Cartography.

Remote Sensing                                           

“Remote Sensing is the science and art of obtaining information about an object, area, or phenomenon through the analysis of data acquired by a device that is not in contact with the object, area or phenomenon under investigation”. 

Aerial photography is one of the most common, versatile and economical forms of remote sensing. Airborne camera and sensor platforms are used to take Photos. Aerial photography can be taken in different methods. For example, in earlier times aerial photographs were taken from balloons, kite, airplane, but now these are replaced by satellites, drone. Remote sensing satellites such as Geostationary and polar sun-synchronous satellites are used in the monitoring of land use/land cover, forestry and wildlife management, soil and agriculture, water resources, urban and regional planning, disaster management, health studies. Slow data dissemination, the high cost of imagery, insufficient spatial and temporal resolution, frequent data incompatibility problems are some of the problems of that may face in remote sensing satellites. This brings to the introduction of the drone.

Drone or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. It is a component of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and can be controlled either by a human using remote or automatically by onboard computers

Drones are available from small to large ranges, widely used in military applications but rapidly expanding to scientific research, commercial, recreational, agriculture, and other applications such as surveillance, smuggling, and drone racing. To date, countries like US, China, Israel, and Iran designed and built their own drone varieties. Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) or underwater drones are also developing, and they are capable of operating underwater. As compared to satellites, drones are portable, lightweight, low-cost operations, high-resolution images, and video recording capabilities. The application of the drones in the Environmental Sciences field includes urban planning, construction, coastal management, terrain modeling, agriculture, surveying, plant and animal conservation, etc.                                                                                                                    

Global Positioning System (GPS)

Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite navigation system providing real-time positioning and timing services. Mountains and buildings block may cause a problem of relative weak GPS signals due to blockage. Nowadays it is available in automobiles, smartphones, GIS devices, etc. Some of known GPS includes US-owned NASTAR GPS (Navigation Satellite Timing and Ranging Global Positioning System), Indian IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) or NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), GLONASS of Russia, Galileo of European Union, etc. The applications in environmental sciences include mapping of water resources, wetlands, vegetation, cultural resource sites, desert, coastal regions, migratory patterns of species, forecast changes in the environment, etc. help in management and conservation of the environment.

GPS Receiver 

Geographic Information System (GIS)

Geographic Information System (GIS) is a powerful tool in environmental analysis. It is a computer-based tool used to generate maps of the real world. It collects, store, retrieve, transfer, analyze and display both spatial and non-spatial data collected from the real world for a specific set of purpose. Data collected by GPS and software programs like Google Earth, Basemap can be used to generate maps. QGIS, ArcGIS, GRASS GIS, MapInfo professional, Geomedia are some of the GIS software used at current for GIS-based applications. GIS requires special skills in information technology, computer programming, and statistics for proper handling of GIS applications. In environmental sciences, GIS used for environmental monitoring, disaster management, planning, environmental assessment, mitigation, generating environmental models, mapping, and monitoring of water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, climate change, conservation.

Real world GIS representation 

Airborne Taxonomic Mapping System (AToMS)

Airborne Taxonomic Mapping System (AToMS) is the most recent advanced technology in mapping. It is developed by Carnegie Institution for Science scientist Greg Asner. AToMS is a high-resolution imaging instrumentation of Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO). These are operated onboard a Dornier 228 aircraft with customized avionics, instrument facilities and sensor mounts. Department of Global Ecology on the campus of Stanford University, USA is maintaining the CAO instrumentation. It is the most scientifically advanced aircraft based mapping and data analytic system. AToMS are now in its fourth generation configuration, with advances in all sensors. It can map features on the Earth’s surface in three dimensions, including all terrestrial ecosystems and human-built environment and can also image coral reefs and other aquatic habitats with spectral details.

Dornier 228 aircraft 

Check below for more info.

GIS in Environmental Studies

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ArcGIS Free training
Space Debris – What happens to dead satellites?

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Categories: Article

Parvathy G

Environmental Science scholar.


  • Muhammed Naseef · August 12, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Got an excellent idea on modern technology used in environmental sciences..

  • Anonymous · August 15, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    great article

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