Spring 2020 - GEOG 253 D100

Introduction to Remote Sensing (3)

Class Number: 3169

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    WMC 3260, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 21, 2020
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Yuhao Lu
    Office: TBA
    Office Hours: By appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    GEOG 111.



An introduction to the theory and practice of remote sensing, including the relevant physical processes, digital image processing and information extraction, and a review of remote sensing applications. Quantitative/Breadth-Science.


Remote Sensing is simply defined, in our scope, as the art and science of characterizing the Earth without touching it.  Is an extremely important, interdisciplinary, technical, computer-based, cutting-edge and growing branch of the Earth Sciences.  Imagine a map of British Columbia where the following categories appear:  urban, bare soil, water, forest, agriculture and shrub.  How did we obtain data in order to produce such an image with reasonable accuracy?  How do we transform raw pixel-based information into such categories?  How does raw pixel data even look like in the first place?  What would you need to further classify forests into conifer, deciduous or mixed?  How can you monitor changes in this land classification after ten years?  Why is remote sensing considered both art and science?  This course will allow you to answer these questions.  

Introduction to Remote Sensing (GEOG 253) is the first of three interconnected courses belonging to the Spatial Information Science branch in our Department of Geography.  It provides a broad and introductory ¾yet concise and profound¾ overview of the main stages of any project which requires remotely-sensed imagery:  data acquisition, data pre-processing, data analysis and interpretation, and information presentation.  Students will become familiar with the process of developing a remote sensing product from raw data both through a theoretical understanding of the characteristics of remotely-sensed imagery and direct experience with hands-on exercises using specialized software.  Students might also be exposed to guest lectures from top-level professionals active in the discipline, who will encourage them to pursue a career in this innovative pathway.

Course Website
All the updated and official information relevant to the course is available at the course’s website, which is hosted by the Canvas system.  To access the website for GEOG 253 please login at:   http://canvas.sfu.ca/   Only students registered in the course will be able to access the website to download lecture notes, handouts and files required for the labs, observe updated due dates, and read announcements related to the course.  The website will be constantly updated and will be your primary source of official information.

During lectures, the instructor will show the theoretical background related to the course contents and required to complete the lab assignments.  The lecture slides are the primary source of course contents and they have blanks that students need to fill in during class.  Failure to attend the lectures will result in missing the most important pieces of information for the course.    The lectures will be highly interactive, with students participating actively based on guided readings and experiential-learning activities.

Students should strictly follow these instructions related to who they should contact for specific purposes.  When you look for information related to the course, before contacting the Instructor or TA, please make sure to:  1) check the syllabus; 2) check the website (announcements are regularly posted, and all deadlines are included there).   

If you absolutely need to contact the Instructor or TA, please follow this order:  1) ask questions directly during or after lectures and lab sessions; 3) email the question or book an appointment.  

Also, make sure you know who to contact regarding specific matters:  

Contact the TA regarding:  lab attendance issues, lab grade inquiries, lab exercise questions, late lab assignment penalties, medical notes and permissions; the TA has total authority regarding all the aspects of the labs.  

Contact the Instructor regarding:  lecture material and theory, midterm and exam.


By the end of the course, students will be able to:  

·       Briefly describe the past history and future potential of Remote Sensing.
·       Describe the remote sensing process and its four main procedures.
·       Understand the concept of electromagnetic radiation and its link with remote sensing measurements.
·       Understand the fundamentals of analog aerial photographs:  acquisition, scale, photogrammetric corrections,  measurements and interpretation.
·       Define the four characteristics of remotely sensed digital images, their interconnection and trade-offs:  spatial, radiometric, spectral and temporal resolutions.
·       Classify remotely-sensed data according energy source, platform, wavelength and resolution.
·       Identify some of the most important satellites in orbit for Earth Monitoring and rank them accorging to their specifications.
·       Understand how pixel digital numbers can be transformed into known variables, indices or land cover category.
·       Perform basic procedures of digital image pre-processing using IDRISI software.
·       Define and perform unsupervised and supervised image classification using IDRISI software.
·       Understand the basics of lidar and radar,
·       Maximize the applicability of remote sensing in any scientific project.


  • Lab assignments: 50%
  • Midterm 25%
  • Final 25%


The course is evaluated through lab assignments, a midterm, and a final exam.  The midterm and the final exam are composed of multiple choice questions that review the main concepts learned through the lectures and labs, some numerical exercises similar to those practiced during the labs, and integrative short answer open-ended questions.  Students only need a a scientific calculator; all the formulas relevant to solving the exercises will be provided.  The midterm is a 50-minute evaluation taking place in the usual lecture room and schedule, while the exam is 3 hour-long on April 16th in a location to be determined.  

Most lab assignments are due by the following lab session, as shown above.  Late assignments will be penalized 5% of the total possible points for each day past the due date.  Once the assignments are returned graded to the students, late assignments will automatically receive a grade of 10 points (over 100) but they still need to be handed in to pass the course. Students cannot pass the course unless all assignments are submitted for grading, no matter how late they are. 



The official textbook (not mandatory) for the course is:  

Campbell J.B., Wynne R.H.  2011.  Introduction to Remote Sensing. 5th Edition. USA: Guilford Press.  ISBN: 9781609181765  

You may also refer to the following free digital textbook:   Tempfli K.N., Kerle G.C. Huurneman, Janssen L.L.F (editors).  2009.  Principles of Remote Sensing: An introductory textbook.  International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC).  Download at:

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html