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  • Writer's pictureGeofem

How Can Satellite Data Monitor Heritage Sites?

Updated: Jul 5

Remote sensing satellites are equipped with sensors that can capture data in multiple spectral bands by utilising various types of sensors and detectors. These sensors are designed to detect electromagnetic radiation in different wavelength ranges, allowing them to capture information beyond what the human eye can perceive. These spectral bands are defined based on their wavelength and are used for specific purposes.

Some commonly used spectral bands include:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) – 10 to 400 nanometres (nm). Used for applications like atmospheric monitoring.

  • Panchromatic – 450 to 800 nanometres (nm). Used for high resolution imaging.

  • The Visible Spectrum – 400 to 700 nanometres (nm). Visible to the human eye.

  • Near-Infrared (NIR) – 700 to 1400 nanometres (nm). Useful for detecting vegetation health.

  • Short-Wave Infrared (SWIR) – 1400 to 3000 nanometres (nm). Applications include mineral identification, soil analysis, and moisture content assessment and cryosphere applications.

  • Thermal Infrared (TIR) – 3000 to 14,000 nanometres (nm). Essential for monitoring temperature variations, identifying hotspots, and assessing fire activity.

  • Microwave – Operate at longer wavelengths typically ranging from 1 millimetre to 1 metre. Used for applications like radar imaging, which can penetrate through clouds and the heaviest rainfall and provide information about the Earth's surface.

Utilising the multiple spectral bands to gather data, especially beyond the visible spectrum, allows for the detection of different materials, vegetation, and geological features in and around heritage sites. So, how does this work exactly?

Material Identification: Remote sensing devices can capture data in various spectral bands, such as infrared and thermal, which can help identify different materials in and around heritage sites. For example, these sensors can differentiate between stone, metal, soil, and wood. This information is crucial for restoration and preservation efforts, as it helps experts select appropriate conservation methods and materials.

Vegetation Monitoring: Near-Infrared (NIR) and Red bands are instrumental in monitoring vegetation around heritage sites. By analysing the health and density of vegetation, stakeholders can assess the impact of plant growth on the site’s structure. Overgrown vegetation can lead to damage, and remote sensing data can guide maintenance efforts to protect the heritage sites.

Geotechnical Feature Detection: Beyond the visible spectrum, remote sensing can identify geological features such as fault lines, soil composition, and subsurface structures. Microwave wavelength ranges are best suited to this application. This information is vital for understanding the stability of the site and assessing potential risks from geological factors, such as landslides or soil erosion.

In summary, the ability of remote sensing devices to capture data in multiple spectral bands and beyond the visible spectrum is instrumental in heritage site analysis and conservation efforts. It provides valuable information for material identification, vegetation monitoring, geological feature detection, environmental assessment, damage assessment, site documentation, planning, risk assessment, and cultural preservation. This data-driven approach empowers heritage site experts and conservationists to make informed decisions and safeguard these valuable cultural assets for future generations.

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