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[English Geoscience Café No.5] ​​Prof. John L. van Genderen: Reflections on 50 Years History of Remote Sensing

发布日期:2017-05-11 15:52:31 阅读次数:[4073]次 作者:

核心提示:Learning the history of Geo-informatics is crucial for us to understand how the field has developed over the past years. In this Café ,Professor John van Genderen has reflected on the past 50 years of the development of remote sensing, including the initial origins and important milestones. Through his scholarly and humorous speech, an outline of geo-informatics's history at Wuhan University has been given. All his extensive experiences in research and charming friendship with teammates around the world have appealed to the audience a lot.

[English Geoscience Café] Prof. John L. van Genderen: Reflections on 50 Years History of Remote Sensing

Text: Faisal Shehzad

Host: Neema Sumari

Photo: Pray Bukhari 

Video: 周炜轩(Wesley Zhou)

Organized by: 于天星(Firmay)

>>> About the Speaker:

Prof. John L. Van Genderen, Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente, Joint founder of the Remote Sensing Society (UK) 1974, Chairman of Dutch Remote Sensing Society 1987-1989, Dutch representative at U.N. Task Force on the use of Earth observation for sustainable development in less developed countries, Chairman European Commission Thematic coordination Group on Remote Sensing for Developing Countries, 1994-1997 and many more. Prof. John completed his Ph.D. on Remote Sensing in 1972, the year the first LANDSAT was launched. He is Honorary/Visiting Professor of Remote Sensing at many Universities in Developing countries and have carried out teaching, research and consultancy projects in more than 140 countries all over the World.

>>>About this English Geoscience Café session:

Session: No. 5

Venue:School of Remote Sensing and Information Engineering, TB3-202 Conference Hall  

Time: 2.30 pm- 4.30 pm 

Topic: Reflections on 50 Years History of Remote Sensing

  In English Geo-Science Café (EGSC) No. 5, despite the change of venue due to some administrative reasons, a large number of students participated and enjoyed the talk from Prof. John L. van Genderen on Reflections of 50 Years History of Remote Sensing. At the beginning of the session, 李茹(May) thanked, on behalf of EGSC team, the speaker and distinguished guests Prof.­ Timo Balz, Zhang Zuxun (Academician) and Prof. Chen Ruizhi (Director LIESMARS) for sparing their valuable time. Alim (LIESMARS PhD Student) gave a brief introduction of EGSC, followed by the host Neema Sumari (LIESMARS PhD student) who gave a quick prologue of the session and introduced the speaker for the day Prof. John who began his presentation.

Fig 1. The distinguished guests (From left to right are Prof.­ Timo Balz, Prof.­ Zhang Zuxun, Prof. John L. van Genderen and Prof. Chen Ruizhi )

  Prof. John started his talk in a very lively and pleasant mood. His presentation comprised of two parts, the first part focusing on Remote sensing technology looking back and forward over the years. The second part was more focused on the cooperation between China and ITC (International Training Center- Netherlands).

Fig 2. The  overview of the history of Remote Sensing

  According to Prof. John, it was in the 1960’s when the term Remote Sensing formally took birth which was also around the same time he started his university studies in North Queensland Australia. According to the speaker, different methods were adopted by different nations for acquiring and processing RS data. The British were quite good at using rockets to acquire photographs. French used balloons called Stratospheric Remote Sensing Balloons for photography which at many times were lost on farms or captured by farmers. Instruments used for processing of data were analog, very large in size and quite expensive at the time. Remote Sensing was only specific for its use for military or spying purposes. 

Fig 3. Stratospheric Remote Sensing Balloons for photography

  The 70’s era is regarded as a period when key milestone in the history of Remote Sensing were achieved. The 23rd of July 1972 was the day when, the first earth resource satellite was launched. In November, the same year, the Remote Sensing Society was also established. Later in the 70’s, many significant milestones were achieved, like establishment of Remote Sensing in china, setting up of large digital image processing system in Asian countries and publishing the first edition of the International Journal of Remote Sensing in 1978.

  Prof. John kept the audience involved with his wonderful sense of humor and many interesting gestures during his talk and made the audience laugh by sharing his experiences in the form of jokes. One interesting moment was when he shared his experience of his first visit to China in April 1978, the time when remote sensing was starting in China. According to him, he was perhaps the first blonde foreigner in China, everywhere he went people called him wai guo ren and even used to touch his blond hair.

Fig 4. The audience being captivated by the speech

  The 80’s could be regarded as the study progress era with respect to Remote Sensing. During this period, many new satellites were launched and new societies were established. The most important milestone during era was the launch of SPOT which completely changed the dimension of satellite remote sensing. This was also the period when digital Remote sensing started, personal computers were available in market for sale, though they had very limited processing power and storage capacity the prices were quite high. Prof. John bought his first PC for US$ 2000/- having a hard disk of 20 MB.

  According to prof. John it was in the 1990’s when remote sensing was operationalized in its true sense. Before that most of the studies and researches were for exploring its possible potential. In this period, many new satellites ERS-1, ERS-2, ENVISAT, MDA, RADARSAT, many SARI satellites including JERS-1, SPOT series etc. joined the satellite family and data of almost every type was now available providing up to cm resolution, with a vast spectral range of bands. During the 90’s, hardware based image processing shifted to PC based software processing (ERDAS, PCI, ER- Mapper etc.). Remote Sensing companies started to globalized.

  New millennium trends regarding remote sensing are still changing. According to the Prof. John there is going to be a traffic jam of satellites around our globe which he analogized with the terrific jams found in Beijing. Between 2003 and 2012, 514 satellites were launched. Satellite size is getting smaller and smaller from ENVISAT 8 tons to the Dove satellite same in size as a 1ltr milk box. According to the speaker, remote sensing today, is no more limited to military use, it has instead expanded to agriculture monitoring, traffic management, forest management, mine deduction, border management, movement of people, animals and many more.

  Prof. John also reflected on future challenges and opportunities. According to his predictions, UAV are going to play a vital role in the acquisition of high resolution hyperspectral data. Data fusions is going to open up new avenues for research and developments. In the presence of this large amount of available data, Data Mining is going to be a challenging task in coming days. 

  Second part of the presentation was focused on close ties between the Chinese Geoinformation scientists of Wuhan University and ITC, University of Twente. The relationship started back in 1978 when prof. V.D Weelle, Rector visited Wuhan for first time. In 1979 Prof. Jerie, acting Rector, singed an MoU with College of Geodesy, Photogrammetry and Cartography and the formal relationship begun.

  At the beginning, only three Chinese professors, including Prof.Chu Liangcai, went to ITC for further studies. In the following years, many joint projects were carried out by ITC and Wuhan University, among which the biggest project of € 5,000,000 was initiated by Prof. Morris Juppenlatz. Since then, ITC has educated more than 600 professionals from China and several thousand in China. Once again showing his great sense of humor, Prof. John abbreviated ITC as Institute for Training Chinese. 

 Fig 5. Prof. John’s speech in a humorous way

  Prof. John also emphasized on the importance of applied research for problem solving. He said, he is not negating the importance of Scientific research, but at the end of the day if this scientific research is not able to solve some real-world issue, it will be useless. Strengthening his argument, he quoted Mao Tse Tung “IF WE HAVE A CORRECT THEORY BUT MERELY TALK ABOUT IT AND DO NOT PUT IT INTO PRACTICE, THEN THAT THEORY, HOWEVER GOOD, IS OF NO SIGNIFICIANCE. ” (“On Practice” in selected work, Vol.1, Page 304).

  The speaker also shared some very interesting practical experiences using remote sensing techniques for estimation of Pilgrimages and vehicles in Makkah using aerial photography and detection of mines in Mozambique using satellite imagery. For his project of mine detection, he submitted his proposal to European Union, who conditionally agreed to fund his project if they could detect all the mines in a test field, in which they were able to detect 335 out of 360 mines. EU decreased the funding saying that they were unable to detect 100% of them. For getting the remaining required amount he contacted Belgium, Italy and England. Again, it was another fascinating story how he got funding from these countries.

  He also gave advice to young researchers, to build relationships in their respective fields by the time they finish their degrees. Procuring the satellite imagery for research in the field of remote sensing requires a lot of money but he had never paid for satellite imagery in his life. Whenever he needed some imagery he used to send his proposal to responsible organization and show how his work could be beneficial for mutual interests. He also quoted one of his teachers that, “Poor man should use his brain more.”

  In the end, in continuation of its legacy, the 5th session of English Geo-Science Café was far ahead from the expectations of organizers and participants. Prof. John took the audience on a Ferrari ride through the various periods of development in the field of Remote Sensing, where it stands today and what lies ahead. He also emphasized the importance of global cooperation for solving local problems and last but not the least his practical advice was like pearls of wisdom for new researchers in their practical life.

Fig 6. Group photo

 

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