Applications of remote sensing to transportation

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Long, Molly Dimond
Major Professor
Souleyrette, Reginald R.
Knapp, Keith K.
Committee Member
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Remote sensing is defined as the science of deriving information about an object from measurements made at a distance. In other words, collecting data about an object without making actual contact. In transportation, the objects could be but are not limited to vehicles, roads, bridges, land use, weather events, and incidents. The following platforms have been identified for remote sensing in transportation: space-based or satellite, aerial or airplane based, and in-situ. In-situ platform includes technologies that although described as remote sensing, are not considered far-earth sensing like aerial and satellite based sensing. Examples of in-situ technologies would be video or magnetic detection. There are a number of remote sensing applications in transportation. This thesis identifies the remote sensing technologies appropriate for transportation applications. In fact, the Transportation Equity Act of the 21stCentury (TEA-21) addresses the remote sensing issue directly by stating the need to "validate commercial remote sensing products and spatial information technologies for application to national transportation infrastructure development and construction." This thesis discusses research into which of those technologies can be used effectively. The research described in this thesis investigates the current data requirements and data gathering needs of the transportation planning and engineering community and several possible applications of remote sensing technologies that could be found useful. The objective the research was to classify, by use of a typology, the types of remote sensing technologies by application area and the auxiliary causes of concern associated with these technologies. These areas were identified as subjects that will receive further research. Based on this typology, two case studies using aerial photography were analyzed to evaluate the usefulness, advantages, and disadvantages of the technology. The classification structure of the typology indicated a gap in the research associated with using remote sensing in transportation planning/modeling applications especially in the area of travel demand model validation. Therefore, a case study was developed around the issues of using remote sensing in this application. Data were collected using remote sensing techniques and guidelines were developed for the methodology outlined by completing a model validation process. Another gap in the research associated with using remote sensing in parking lot study data collection was identified by the typology. A second case study was developed around the issues of using low cost aerial photography in this application. Data were collected using remote sensing, a methodology was developed, and the developed methodology was compared to traditional methodologies. This thesis makes two contributions to the transportation field. The typology identified areas that applications of remote sensing can be developed and used in transportation. The case studies demonstrated that associated barriers would not preclude the use of remote sensing in the transportation field.