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We collect interdisciplinary land imaging user needs focusing on what needs to be measured rather than specific technology. The foundation of our work is community engagement focused on understanding and documenting the needs of the land imaging user community. 

Our comprehensive user needs database consists of information gathered from hundreds of subject matter experts.  User needs are captured in a “technology agnostic” format that provides flexibility in our analysis of the range of current and future technologies that could potentially meet the needs.

To serve you best please:

  1. Review the sections below to learn more about the range and scope of user needs that we have collected. 
  2. Explore how this information is being used to inform decisions.
  3. After learning more about the user needs gathering process, submit your request using the RCA-EO User Needs Form.


Types of Land Imaging Observation Needs

User needs cover a breadth of land-imaging observation types, spatial scales, and frequencies. The image below displays the general frequency and resolution of various earth observation needs, and the table lists the definitions of  each topical area listed, with regards to land imaging user needs. 

A chart showing the scope of needs for earth observations

Topical Application Area Descriptions

Aquatic Parameters

Includes aquatic biomass, coral reefs, bottom cover features, and bathymetry for inland lakes and rivers

Coastal Includes detection of oil spills, marine vessels, and surface debris in coastal environments
Elevation/ Vegetation Structure Includes the height and structure of land or ice surfaces, tree canopies and vegetation
Fires/Volcanoes Includes mapping of fire location, measurement of fire intensity, and detection of volcanic activity
Land Cover/ Vegetation Condition Includes vegetation characteristics such as water content, condition, structure, and assessment of burned areas
Snow/Ice Includes the properties of glaciers, sea ice, and snow
Surface Temperature Includes measurement of land and water surface temperature, surface emissivity, and evapotranspiration
Water Quality Includes measurements of surface water quality such as chlorophyll, turbidity, and suspended sediments
High Resolution Cross-cuts many topical areas including land cover, water quality, vegetation condition/type, soil moisture, snow, ice, elevation, and geology

Application Areas

User needs cover a breadth of applications including ecology, land use/land cover change, water resources and quality, and emergency/disaster management. The block chart below displays the top application areas where Earth observation data is required and the general proportion of needs related to each application. 

a box chart displaying the user needs ranked in application areas

Application Area Descriptions

Agriculture Irrigation monitoring, crop area/yield/condition monitoring
Coastal Coastal wetland research, coral reef monitoring, and sea-level monitoring
Cryosphere Snow cover extent and glacier research
Ecology Wildlife, vegetation, invasive species, and wetland monitoring
Emergency/Disaster Management Fire activities, volcano monitoring, flood mapping, landslide mapping, and emergency response activities
Energy Coal fires and bio-fuel estimation
Forestry Forest inventory/change, forest carbon estimation, and insect/disease mapping
Geology Mine reclamation and surface mineral mapping
Land Use/Land Cover Land cover change and land use mapping
Other Other land imaging applications


Infrastructure mapping
Public Health Disease research and urban heat island
Water Quality Algal blooms, and water quality/water clarity monitoring
Water Resources Consumptive use, irrigation monitoring, and surface water extent monitoring

Attribute Distribution

User needs range in scale from centimeters to kilometers, observation frequency from minutes to decades, and geographic coverage from areas as narrow as the Great Lakes to the entire globe.

bar graph showing the percentages of what spatial (resolution) required for land imaging user needs
bar graph showing the observation frequency of land imaging user needs
a pie chart showing the geographic areas of land imaging user needs