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Lecture 2: Remote Measurements

Sometimes it is not physically possible to measure something.

How can you measure the height of a tree?


Distance from tree

Tan θ = height
height = Tan θ x distance

measure θ using a plumb line…

Similar triangles



d3 d2 d1

Since h1 = Tanθ x d1 and h2 = Tanθ x d2 …

h1 = Tanθ = h2 ie h2 = h1d2
d1 d2 d1

No need to measure angles.

Coordinate Systems

Polar Coordinates
The position of B measured with respect to A in polar coordinates is an angle
θ from a reference line and a distance R from A.

B The whole circle

R bearing of a line is
measured in a
θ clockwise direction
from a specified
reference or North

Cartesian or Rectangular Coordinate System

(x, y)



To convert between the two systems:

X = Rcosθ
Y = Rsinθ

The value of the Cartesian system is that vectors are easily included.
If the position of two points is known (with respect to an origin) then it is
easy to determine the distance between them.

Boat A is 3.0nm away from the harbour in a 60° North of East direction.
Boat B is 4.0nm away from the harbour in a 30° South of East direction.
What is the distance between the boats?

Student A is in the city campus of UniSA while student B is in the Levels

campus. Student C is at the Magill Campus. Using Adelaide city as the
origin, determine how far apart students B and C are. If Student C wanted
to travel to the Levels what direction should they travel in?
Electronic Distance Measurements
Distances can also be measured remotely using electromagnetic radiation.
For example:

Using the simple relation of speed = distance/time and measuring the time
that the signal takes to return, it is possible to determine the distance. This is
because electromagnetic radiation travels at a constant speed c in a medium.
Sound waves can also be used.

Two methods:
1. using an emitter at one end and a collector at the other
2. using an emitter/collector at one end and a reflector (end-cube) at the
The nature of the wave and the optics involved will be discussed later in the
course but lasers are commonly used.

This method can also be used to determine the speed of a car. How would
that work?

What is another method of determining the speed of vehicles?

Remote Sensing
Sometimes it is necessary to use equipment to extend our senses and be
able to make measurements in difficult situations. What are some other
situations in which remote sensing would be necessary?

• Radiation
• Nuclear
• Electromagnetic
• Very Large and Very Small objects
• Astronomy
• Cells
• Too fast or too slow to detect visually (Multinova… speed traps)
• Too hot or too cold (Temperature)
• Too loud or too quiet (earphones and microphones)

Remote Sensing is simply defined as the observation and measurement

of an object without touching it. A more common definition is the use of
electromagnetic sensors to record images of the environment, which can
be interpreted to yield useful information.
Much of remote sensing is concerned with remote imaging from aircraft
and satellites.

• The main concern is the transfer of energy by radiation.

• Radiation can be reflected, emitted or absorbed.
• The electromagnetic radiation interacts with the earth and the
• The amount of vegetation, the type of soil, the environment (rural, urban,
forest) and the amount of water all affects the type and amount of
radiation detected.

As the height of the aircraft increases corrections have to be made for the curvature of the Earth as
well as the roughness of the surface.