Remote Sensing (RS) Technician

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Remote Sensing (RS) Technician


Remote sensing systems have allowed us to understand and see the world more clearly in map, photograph and chart form. Remote sensing generally refers to any technique where information about objects, landscaping and the environment is obtained from a distance. In the context of mapping and surveying the Earth and its forms, remote sensing measures variations of how electromagnetic emissions, such as light, infrared light and thermal energy, interact with objects. Remote sensing (RS) technicians operate remote sensing interpretative equipment to prepare images, graphic and alphanumeric reports, maps and charts.

Remote sensing technology samples electromagnetic radiation to acquire and interpret non-immediate geospatial data. This data gives us information about features and objects on the Earth's land surface, oceans, and atmosphere. Electromagnetic radiation emanates from these sensors to produce photographic images. The data often can also be shown as maps and to a lesser extent graphs. Remote sensing is also used for meteorology and space exploration.

Different remote sensing techniques include aerial photography, radar systems, thermal energy systems, digital satellites and photogrammetry. Today, most information is stored on geographic information systems (GIS) software to customize and integrate image analysis. Remote sensing can also be used for environmental studies. For example, using satellite sensing systems, technicians can now analyze and understand the impacts of both natural and human-induced activities on the environment.

Other important research areas in which remote sensing activity is utilized is for studying population, urban sprawl, flood analysis, rangelands, wetlands restoration and other sustainable land use studies. This information can be used by government organizations for research and other information services. Technicians take this extracted data and verify the integrity and accuracy of the images. The editing aspect of the technician's job is an integral component of remote sensing because our world and its formations are constantly changing. With global warming and other environmentally altering phenomena of late, studies must be constantly updated to help map out our world and predict possible changes that will profoundly affect our lives.

Remote sensing technicians that work in large companies usually consult with a team of surveyors, cartographers and engineers to work collectively on projects. Those who work in smaller companies tend to meet with clients, contractors and other professionals. In accordance with rapidly changing technology, remote sensing technicians are required to update their computer and general knowledge skills in this rapidly changing industry.
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  Interests and Skills  
Remote sensing technicians should have an aptitude for mathematics, including the ability to think visually about geometric forms. They use complex sensing instruments and highly advanced GIS programs, and they must also have good technical and artistic drawing skills. They should have an eye for detail and be able to edit their work for mistakes.

Remote sensing technicians should be knowledgeable in topographical features, infrastructure and boundaries. Lastly, they should be able to work and communicate with a number of different workers and also work independently.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Operate computer remote sensing interpretive equipment to prepare images, graphic and alphanumeric reports, maps and charts
  • Develop specialized computer software specific routines to customize and integrate image analysis
  • Verify the integrity and accuracy of data contained in remote sensing image analysis systems
  • Use digital remote sensing techniques to collect information about specific features of the Earth
  • Direct the overall planning and development of mapping projects
  • Determine remote sensing requirements and the type of acquisition and plotting equipment to be used
  • Determine the aerial photography and remote sensing techniques and computer software needed to meet the required standards of accuracy
  • Remote sensing technicians spend the majority of their time in offices, conducting research or working on the computer. They rarely visit the sites they are mapping or go into the air to visualize remote sensing processes. Most remote sensing technicians work standard eight-hour days or 40-hour weeks. Evening and weekend work is rare, except when important deadlines approach. Those who are self-employed usually have less regulated schedules and their work depends on how many clients they have.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Remote sensing technicians work in the public and private sectors. They are employed by all levels of government, private mapping and technology companies, environmental non-government organizations, computer software companies and other related industries.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for remote sensing technicians? Since boundary lines are constantly changing, global warming is affecting land surfaces and climate change, environmental issues are of great concern and population in urban centers is growing, there will always be jobs for remote sensing technicians. However, in order to keep up with the speed of technology, they must learn GIS and keep up-to-date on the latest technological advances.

Those who like outdoor work may consider going into engineering technology, doing survey work and technical fieldwork. Remote sensing technicians with years of experience could also teach remote sensing technology at a community college.

  Educational Paths  
To get a job as a remote sensing technician, a college diploma in remote sensing technology or a specific specialty area such as photogrammetry or cartographic technology is compulsory. It is also possible to take courses related to RS technology from the geography departments of many universities. Some school programs offer internships, which are valuable in helping gain experience and make contacts.

A background in computer science is useful, since most cartographic technicians today use advanced computer-mapping programs.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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