Aerial Imagery Based on Commercial Flights as Remote Sensing Platform

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Mar 17;20(6):1658. doi: 10.3390/s20061658.


Remote sensing is commonly performed via airborne platforms such as satellites, specialized aircraft, and unmanned aerial systems (UASs), which perform airborne photography using mounted cameras. However, they are limited by their coverage (UASs), irregular flyover frequency (aircraft), and/or low spatial resolution (satellites) due to their high altitude. In this paper, we examine the utilization of commercial flights as an airborne platform for remote sensing. Namely, we simulate a situation where all aircraft on commercial flights are equipped with a mounted camera used for airborne photography. The simulation is used to estimate coverage, the temporal and spatial resolution of aerial imagery acquired this way, as well as the storage capacity required for storing all imagery data. The results show that Europe is 83.28 percent covered with an average of one aerial photography every half an hour and a ground sampling distance of 0.96 meters per pixel. Capturing such imagery results in 20 million images or four petabytes of image data per day. More detailed results are given in the paper for separate countries/territories in Europe, individual commercial airlines and alliances, as well as three different cameras.

Keywords: aerial imagery; commercial flights; land coverage; remote sensing; spatial; temporal.