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REMOTE SENSING: APPLICATIONS IN CIVIL ENGINEERING

Remote sensing (RS) is a method of obtaining information from distant objects without direct contact.
This is possible due to the existence or the generation of force fields between the sensing device and
the sensed object. Usable force fields are mechanical waves in solid matter (seismology) or in liquids
(sound waves). But the principal force field used in remote sensing is that of electromagnetic energy.
The emission of electromagnetic waves is suitable for directional separation. Thus, images of the
radiation incident on a sensor may be generated and analyzed.

In civil engineering projects, Remote sensing techniques can become potential and indispensable
tools. Various civil engineering application areas include regional planning and site investigation,
terrain mapping and analysis, water resources engineering, town planning and urban infrastructure
development, transportation network analysis, landslide analysis, etc.
In civil engineering, remote sensing is used to gain data regarding the earth. Remote sensing collects
data in spatial form. In case of the earth, the data collected is called geospatial data. This is then
converted to valuable information through a geo-informatics system (GIS).
Some of the applications of RS in civil engineering are:
1. REGIONAL PLANNING AND SITE INVESTIGATIONS
Site investigations in general require topographical and geological information. Remote sensing data
allows such information to be obtained. In case of dam site investigation e.g., information on
topography such as type of terrain (hilly or plain) is essential. Geological considerations also matter
and include data regarding the different soil and rock types present at a site.
In selecting river-crossing sites for bridges and pipelines, an important consideration is the stability of
slopes leading down to and up from the water crossing. Such slopes include riverbanks, terrace faces
and valley wall. History of river erosion and sedimentation would give clues needed for locating the
sites where scour is likely to occur. High spatial resolution satellite data with stereo vision capability
can facilitate depth perception in the above said investigations and also for regional planning of large
commercial airports, harbors, industrial towns and recreational sites.
2. TERRAIN MAPPING AND ANALYSIS
Assessment of the performance of the terrain for specific developmental activities can be made
through terrain evaluation. For this, terrain information can be acquired from RS data and by
generating the Digital Terrain Model (DTM). A DTM is an ordered array of numbers representing the
spatial distribution of terrain characteristics stored in a computer so as to enable the determination of
any quantitative data pertaining to terrain. DTM facilitates investigation of a number of alternative

horizontal and vertical alignments of canals, roads, pipelines or corridors for different construction
projects. In an engineering construction like dam, the knowledge of material comprising the terrain is
essential for proper planning, location, construction and maintenance of engineering facilities. For
computation of hydrograph parameters like peak runoff rate, time of concentration and time to peak,
the height and slope information derived from Digital Elevation Model (DEM) are useful. Remote
sensing based inventory of construction material such as boulders, quarry rock, sand clay mixtures
etc. would help to locate suitable sites of construction materials.
3. WATER RESOURCES AND HYDROLOGICAL ENGINEERING
By analyzing multi-date RS data, it would be possible to monitor the effects of dam construction.
Remotely sensed data of pre and post dam construction can reveal the forest and other land at
different water levels. This would also help in preliminary investigation of finding suitable areas for
human resettlement.
To study the feasibility of inter basin transfer of surplus flood flows, RS data can be cost effective. In
large area reconnaissance studies, various technically feasible and economically viable alternatives in
locating surplus flow diversion routes to water deficient basins can be arrived at. Also, reservoir sites
to store the surplus flows in these basins could be identified. Such projects of large dimensions
require considerations of land use / land cover, soil and geological mapping, terrain evaluation,
construction material inventory etc. the latter are derived from satellite remote sensing data of
particular resolution depending upon the scale on which such information is required.
The water storage built in through reservoirs, tanks, etc., are often reduced due to sedimentation.
Remotely sensed data can be used to monitor the water bodies over time and assess the silting
condition. In case of gauged reservoirs of medium to large sizes, RS data can provide an assessment
of sediment volume and reduction in the capacity of sediment volume and reduction in the capacity
of the reservoir.
Characterization of water bodies in terms of geological, geomorphological, hydro geological, soil and
land use / land cover parameters carried out using RS data enables conservation of land and water
resources. The RS based input integrated with ground based information through GIS is useful for
broad reconnaissance level interpretation of land capability, irrigation suitability, potential land use,
water harvesting areas, monitoring the effects of soil and water conservation measures, estimation of
runoff and sediment yields and monitoring land use change including land degradation.
The commercial areas of irrigation projects are fed by different sources of irrigation like reservoir,
tanks, ponds and wells. Assessment of command areas and crops would be highly useful in water
release policy or conjunctive use of water in the overall project command area. Satellite data has been
advantageously used to obtain such information on surface irrigation projects.
In case of floods, appropriate flood management work has to be executed to reduce the damages
and utilize the floodwaters. For this purpose satellite RS provides comprehensive, reliable and timely
information (multi-date) on flood inundated and drainage congested areas, extent of damage to
crops, structure etc. river configuration, silt deposits and vulnerable areas of bank erosion. This data is
used for construction of protective structures.
Satellite derived snow cover assessment is being extensively used as an important input in snow melt
runoff prediction models to assist in multipurpose reservoir operations.
Image interpretation can be used in a variety of ways to help monitor the quality, quantity of water
resources. It is well proven in exploring ground water prospect zones. Potential ground water areas

cannot be seen directly on satellite images but they can be identified by the physical changes the
formation of an aquifer has on the visible surface.
Sediment pollution is often clearly depicted on aerial and space images. Materials that form films on
the water surface, such as oil films, can also be detected through the use of aerial and satellite
images. RS can also be used to identify potential fishing zones in coastal areas.
4. TOWN PLANNING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
The unprecedented growth of urbanization in many countries across the globe has given rise to
problems of housing, sanitation, power, water supply, disposal of effluents and environmental
pollution. Systematic mapping and periodic monitoring of urban land use is therefore necessary for
proper planning, management and policy making (with the help of RS and GIS optimal master plan
for development and management of urban settlements can be prepared).
For sustainable development of urban clusters, optimal urban land use plans and resources
development models need to be generated by integrating the information on natural resources,
demographic and socio economic data in a GIS domain with the currently available satellite data.
5. MINING AND MINERAL EXPLORATION
RS data allows identification of mineral deposits in remote areas. Once a mineral deposit is identified,
mining techniques are discussed. RS data gives us suitable data regarding the geological and the
topographical conditions in which the mineral resource exists and this helps in planning of the mining
operation particularly in tunnel engineering. Also as mentioned above minerals such as oil, limestone
etc. have important uses in manufacturing of materials for civil engineering projects and so locating
their deposits is essential and RS data can help us do that economically.
6. TRANSPORTATION NETWORK ANALYSIS
With the help of high spatial resolution data, mapping of road and rail network can be accomplished.
This facilitates in deciding optimal routing for transport of construction materials. Even, identification
of village roads is possible in certain cases. RS data can also be used in construction of roadways and
other forms of transport systems.
7. LANDSLIDE STUDIES
Landslides are the most common and recurring hazards in mountainous areas causing enormous loss
of life and property every year. The parameters that contribute directly or indirectly include lithology
and structure, landform, slope, aspect, relief, vegetation cover, climatic and human activities.
Information on these aspects can be collected and integrated for preparing a landslide hazard zone
map that can be done through RS. This allows for construction of protection facilities.
Example Case Study
1. Remote sensing and GIS based forest cover change detection study in Kalrayan hills, Tamil
Nadu
INTRODUCTION:
The present study focuses on the role of remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) in
assessment of changes in forest cover, between 1931 and 2001, in the Kalrayan hills, Tamil Nadu. The
trend of forest cover changes over the time span of 70 years was precisely analysed using high
resolution Satellite data. The study revealed that the forest cover was 275.6, 481.7 and 266.5 sq.km in
1931, 1971 and 2001 respectively. It was noticed that forest cover has increased between 1931 and
1971, because of the implementation of various afforestation schemes by the forest department and
scared grooves. It also revealed that the forest cover loss between 1971 and 2001 could be due to

Shifting cultivation and illegal encroachments by villagers; and the forest cover drastically decreased
on plateau areas due to human population pressure. The study analyses the forest cover change in
the tropical deciduous forest region of the Eastern Ghats of India. It is envisaged that the study would
prove the usefulness of Remote Sensing and GIS in forest restoration planning.
METHODOLOGY
In the present study, for assessing the temporal changes in the forest cover, the Indian Remote
Sensing Satellites (IRS) 1C LISS III geo coded FCC of 2001 on 1: 50,000 scales was made use of. As a
time series data, the Survey of India (SOI) topo sheets of 1931 and 1971 were also used. Moreover, the
forest working plan reports and administrative maps were also taken into account.
The study area (Kalrayan hills environment) map was prepared from SOI topographical sheets on
1:50,000 scale. The forest cover, in the study area, during 1931 and 1971 w ere derive d from the SOI
Topo sheets of 19 31 and 1971 o n 1:50,000 (after converting it into same scale) respectively. As
the data sources used are varied in nature, these pose problems while directly com paring the forest
details with each other

RESULT AND DISCUSSION


The

Study analysis clearly prove that decreased the period 1931-1971 forests have increased

intensively and during the period 1971-2001 forests have decreased drastically. It is also inferred that
forests cover in the study area has also been notably changed from 1931 to 2001. It also indicates
that the area under agriculture human habitation has substantially increased due to population
pressure and forests degradation. The seventy years (1931-2001) of forest cover and its variations has
been precisely analysed. The study reveals that the rate of forest degradation is more during the
period from 1971 to 2001. The results reflect the lack of awareness in forest conservation. Hence, the
importance of Social forestry, motivation of Sacred grooves farming system for preserving the
original endemic species (as observed at upper reaches near Kariyalur and Vellimalai evergreen
forests) and to create awareness among children and local people by organizing various villages /
school-wise awareness programmes are emphasized. The present study also has opened so many

avenues for a detailed study such as micro level / watershed wise vegetation analysis and forest cover
changes assessment