GEO-SCI426/626 Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation

Department of Geosciences

University of Massachusetts - Amherst

4 cr, Fall 2015

Class schedule table         Syllabus in PDF

Notes, lab and assignments will be updated on the Moodle.

Lecture†††††††††††††††† TuTh 10-11:15 pm    129 Morrill Sci. Ctr.


Qian Yu, Ph.D

Morrill 267


Office hour

Tu Th 11:15-12:15 or by appointment

TA: Jiwei Li

Morrill IV 264


Office hour

MonWed 11-12 or by appointment


Course description

This course provides an introduction to the fundamentals of remote sensing. Class lectures will focus on a range of concepts and techniques key to understanding how remote sensing data are acquired, displayed, restored, enhanced, and analyzed. Topics include remote sensing principles, aerial photography, image interpretation, major remote sensing systems, image display and enhancement, information extraction, accuracy assessment, and remote sensing in environmental research and applications. First half of the semester focuses on theory of remote sensing. In the second half, we have several hands-on computer labs to gain experience using the image processing software ITT ENVI. We will also explore a range of practical issues related to the application of remote sensing to solve real world problems. Overall, this class emphasizes remote sensing theory and knowledge.


Course purpose

To provide you with an introduction to the principles and practices of photo interpretation and digital remote sensing for use in environmental monitoring, measurements of structural parameters, and natural resource management.

Course objectives

This class will insure students have knowledge on these aspects:

1.  the properties and characteristics of aerial photographs.

2.  remote sensing systems: a) how to define the type of remote sensing needed to fulfill the user's stated objectives, b) where existing remote sensing data which fulfills his/her objectives may be located, and c) how to obtain new aerial photography, if necessary.

3.  digital image processing: a) basic concepts on non-photographic remote sensing, b) general principles of digital image processing for remote sensing applications, and c) future applications of remote sensing to natural resource management and related fields.

4.  remote sensing information extraction: a) which characteristics of land cover types can be mapped/measured from remote sensing, b) different techniques available for mapping and measuring these land cover types, and c) how accurately these land cover characteristics can be mapped from remote sensing.

Prerequisites:  High school Algebra and Geometry

Required textbook for lectures 

Jensen, John R., 2007, Remote Sensing of the Environment: An Earth Resource Perspective, Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ. 2nd ed. ISBN 0-13-188950-8

Reference book for lectures

1.    Jensen, John R., 2005, Introductory Digital Image Processing: A Remote Sensing Perspective, Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 3rd ed. ISBN 0-13-145361-0

2.    Lillesand, Thomas M., 2007, Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation, Wiley. ISBN-13: 978-0470052457, 6th edition

3.    Gong, Peng, Remote Sensing and Image Analysis

Grading and evaluation

Exams will cover key concepts from lecture, article and laboratory activities. All written assignments must be handed in on time.

Exercises and assignments

Mid-Term Exam

Final Exam/Project


Class participation& Course portfolio






626 students:      1. Present a journal paper about remote sensing application in your field;

2. Choose your own topic for final project.

Laboratory activities and assignments: We will work through some laboratory activities specified in additional documents to aid in understanding technical concepts taught in lectures. We will also explore some of the technical facets of ITT ENVI software, which will help manipulate images. 

Policy on attendance and due-dates for assignments:

      Attendance to both lecture and lab is required in the normal circumstances and forms a portion of your grade. Failure to meet course requirements due to illness will require documentation for alternate arrangements to be made. It is the responsibility of the student to obtain any materials (i.e. notes) from other students in the event the student cannot attend class for some reasons.   

      All exercises must be turned in by the date the exercises are due.  Submission within one week of the due date will be considered as late submission. Each student will have one chance of late submission (within one week of the due date) with full score. Any consecutive late submission within one week without advance permission by the instructor will cause a grade deduction by half. No exercise will be accepted after one week following the due date.

      No make-up exams will be given unless PRIOR arrangements have been made with instructor and documentation of an illness is provided.

      Missing mid-term exam, final exam/project, presentation, or >=3 homework will result in an F for the course.


Academic Honesty Policy:

      All work submitted must be your own in presentation. You may discuss homework and final project with other students (you are encouraged to so), but the homework and project writeup must be your work.

      Exams are closed-book and no outside help is allowed. Any cheating on an exam will result in an F for the course.

      Copying is not allowed, and collaboration so close that it looks like copying is not allowed. Violation will be reported to the UMass Academic Honesty Board.

      If you make use of a printed or on-line source as reference, you need to cite it and mention it in your writeup.


Class Schedule (subject to change according to the progress)

This table will be updated through the semester. You can direct access by the following URL. This URL is also posted in Moodle.







1 Sept 7


Lecture 1


Jensenís ch1


Lecture 2.1

Physic basis of remote sensing: Electromagnetic radiation principles (1)

Jensenís ch 2 p37-47

2 Sept 14


Lecture 2.2

Physic basis of remote sensing: Light-atmosphere and light-terrain interaction(2)

Jensenís ch 2 p47-60


Lab 1

Spectral curve, spectroradiometer



Lecture 2.3


Lecture 3.1

Physic basis of remote sensing: path radiance, atmosphere correction (3)

Aerial photography: vantage point, cameras (1)



3 Sept 21


Lecture 3.2

Aerial photography: color theory, filter (2)

Jensenís ch4

Skip p101-104, 116-122 (read on from Color Photographic Emulsions)


Lecture 3.3

Aerial photography: film development (3)

4 Sept 28


Lecture 4.1

Multispectral remote sensing systems: concepts: digital images, resolution, orbits, platform, types of system

Jensenís ch7

Skip 1) Indian Remote Sensing System p229 -231, 2) Digital frame cameras bases on Area Arrays p244-246


Lab 2

Stereo-airphoto interpretation


Lecture 4.2

Multispectral remote sensing systems: Landsat and SPOT

5 Oct 5


Lecture 4.3

Multispectral remote sensing systems -AVHRR, EOS, High resolution





6 Oct 12



Monday schedule, no class

Lab 3 

Image display and multispectral remote sensing System


Lecture 5.1

Thermal infrared remote sensing

Jensen's ch8, Skip 1)250-252 (History of Thermal RS) 2) p260-261 (Thermal properties of terrain) 

7 Oct 19


Lecture 5.2




Lecture 6.1

Image enhancement


8 Oct 26



Mid-term exam


Lab 4

Thermal infrared remote sensing interpretation



Lecture 6.2

Image enhancement, cont


9 Nov 2






Lecture 7.1

Information extraction:  classification


10 Nov 9


Lecture 7.2

Information extraction:  classification


Lab 5

Image enhancement



Lecture 8.1

Remote sensing application 1 : vegetation (1)


11 Nov 15



Remote sensing application 1: vegetation (2)




Lecture 8.2

Remote sensing application 2: water (1)


12 Nov 23



Remote sensing application 2: water (2)



Lab 6








13 Nov 30


Lecture 8.3

Remote sensing application 3 (1)




Remote sensing application 3 (2)


15 Dec 7



Working on final project





Final project presentation





Final project


Dec 17



Final project report due