Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Remote Sensing Technologies for Disaster Risk Reduction

Posted on | May 22, 2023 | No Comments

I recently started teaching a graduate class: EST 561 – Sensing Technologies for Disaster Risk Reduction. Most of the focus is on remote sensing satellites, but drones, robots, and land-based vehicles are also considered. Broadly speaking, we say sensing technologies involve ‘acquiring information at a distance.’ This could be a satellite sensing the quality of the crops in a valley, or a commercial airline using radar to determine the weather ahead. It could also be a car navigating through hazardous snow or fog.

Remote sensing is a key technology for disaster risk reduction and can be useful in disaster management situations as well. The Sendai Agreement, signed in Japan during 2015 was developed in response to the increasing frequency and severity of disasters around the world such as droughts, hurricanes, fires, and floods. These events have resulted in significant loss of life, damage to infrastructure, and economic losses. The Sendai Agreement stressed disaster understanding, governance, and investing in resilience and preparedness for effective response.

Sensing technologies can provide valuable information about potential hazards, assessing their impact, and supporting response and recovery efforts. This information can support decision-makers and emergency responders before, during, and after disasters. By providing high-resolution maps and imagery (either real-time or archived for analysis over time) they can identify vulnerable areas and monitor changes in the environment, such as changes in land use, crop health, deforestation, and urbanization. They can also monitor structural damage in buildings and infrastructure. For example, Seattle-based drone maker BRINC sent drones to Turkey’s earthquake-ridden Antakya region to view areas first responders couldn’t reach.

Remote sensing is conducted from a stable platform and observes targets from a distance. This information provides early warning signs of natural hazards, such as floods, wildfires, and landslides, by monitoring changes in environmental conditions, such as rainfall, temperature, and vegetation health. Sensing technology can quickly assess damage after a disaster, allowing decision-makers to prioritize response efforts and allocate resources more effectively. Remote sensing can also provide baseline data on the environment and infrastructure, which can be used to identify potential disaster risks and plan for response and recovery efforts.

This post provides context for our entry into the seven processes of remote sensing that are useful for identifying discrete strategies for analytical purposes. These involve understanding sources of illumination, possible interference in the atmosphere, interactions with the target, recording of energy by the sensor, processing of the information, interpretation, and analysis, as well as the application of data in disaster risk reduction and management situations.

Citation APA (7th Edition)

Pennings, A.J. (2023, May 22). Remote Sensing Technologies for Disaster Risk Reduction.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Technology and Society, State University of New York, Korea where he manages an undergraduate program with a specialization in ICT4D. After getting his PhD from the University of Hawaii, he moved to New Zealand to teach at Victoria University in Wellington. From 2002-2012 he was on the faculty of New York University. His US home is in Austin, Texas.


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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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