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RSPSoc Special Interest Groups

The Special Interest Groups (SIGs) act as focal points for members of the Society within particular specialist or application areas to meet and share ideas.

There are two categories of SIGs: those existing as an autonomous group in their own right and/or jointly affiliated to an organisation other than RSPSoc, called Affiliated Special Interest Groups and those wholly owned by RSPSoc. Both types aim to:

  • Convene one technical meeting a year with not less than one meeting every two years.
  • Appoint a Convenor who will liaise with members of Council.
  • Supply an annual report and, from time to time, report to RSPSoc Council through the SIG committee.
  • Respond to enquiries from established and joining RSPSoc members about the SIG


See below for a list of current SIGs operating in RSPSoc. If you would like to join one, contact the SIG convener.

Archaeology SIG

The Archaeology SIG aims to encourage the exchange of research and methodology between remote sensing scientists and archaeologists, especially those concerned with methods of site prospection and novel applications.

Read more: Archaeology SIG

Disaster Management SIG

Disaster Management Special Interest Group

The aim of the Disaster Manaagement SIG is to promote best practice and innovative applications in the use of remote sensing and photogrammetry in all aspects of disaster management, both pre-disaster (e.g. disaster preparedness; hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment) and post-disaster (e.g. crisis response, damage estimation and disaster recovery).


 There was a Disaster Management session at this year's RSPSoc Annual Conference (at Nottingham University, 5-8 September 2016). The session was held on Tuesday 6 September, with presentations covering the full disaster management spectrum, from preparedness, to emergency response, disaster recovery and humanitarian management. The session finished with a discussion about expanding the activities of the Disaster Management SIG. If you were unable to attend, but would still like to be involved in organising activities for the Disaster Management SIG, then please email the convenor: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Satellite Remote Sensing: Disaster Risk Reduction & Insurance Uses

16th September 2016, Lloyd's of London

Remote Sensing for Disaster Risk Reduction and Insurance, was the theme of a briefing recently held in the Old Library of the Lloyd's Building in the City of London. The event, jointly hosted by RSPSoc and AGI, and sponsored by MS Amlin and Aon Benfield Impact Forecasting, brought together around 90 insurance, risk and remote sensing professionals to discuss how this exciting technology can help traditional and upcoming insurance markets.

The abstract booklet from the meeting is now available HERE


Satellite Remote Sensing: Disaster Risk Reduction & Insurance Uses Programme

1: Introduction

2: Godwin (Lloyd's Claims): New frontiers

3: McCarthy (UK Space Catapult): Satellite services and future technologies of interest to the insurance industry

4: Day (South Coast Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications): Space technologies Catapult

5: Jordan (British Geological Survey): Remote sensing to manage geohazard risks

6: Lewis (ImageCat): Uses of remote sensing for exposure management and CAT modelling

7: Ewing (Aon Benfield Impact Forecasting): Using remote sensing data to develop catastrophe models

8: Thomson (MS Amlin): Remote sensing for event response and risk optimisation

9: Teeuw: Uses of free satellite imagery for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

Presentation Summaries

Phil Godwin (Lloyd’s claims) set the scene by providing an overview of how remote sensing technology was improving efficiency for claims handlers by reducing costs required for field surveys and overcoming constraints to access affected sites (see Godwin presentation). The resolution of satellite imagery is so good nowadays that we can clearly identify if a building has been destroyed, as used in Fort McMurray, thus adding another layer of confidence in claims handling. Remote sensing is becoming essential if insurers want to keep at the forefront of industry.

Sean McCarthy gave an interesting overview of Government involvement in promoting the UK space industry for the benefit of commercial companies and illustrated how insurers can make use of practical applications and products from Remote Sensing and satellite technologies (see McCarthy presentation). Catapult is looking to break down existing silos in the Earth Observation industry by understanding better what is stopping data being integrated. There are nine Catapult businesses in total, which link together to help bridge academic and business interests. There is opportunity with the latest technology of cube satellites that can be easily released into space, crowed sourced sensors and even video from space: What kind of data can we obtain from these new satellite developments? How can we use this data? And how accessible can it be made for real time information? For example, ground movement and subsidence can be monitored with granular enough data that could predict loss before it happens.

Grant Day went further and talked about typical start-ups with examples of how remote sensing is helping the marine economy and marine applications (see Day presentation). Catapult is supporting funded university projects by helping to turn these into useful products for industry. He pointed out that the space industry is continuing to grow while costs of data are rapidly reducing.

Colm Jordan’s talk focussed on geological risks and the British Geological Survey are using Remote Sensing (RS) data for forecast volcano models, monitoring landslide risks, mapping historical tsunami areas to identify wave behaviour, as well as modelling of future geological risks (see Jordan presentation).

Gavin Lewis, Tina Thomson and Chris Ewing brought examples of how remote sensing and associated products are being used in the insurance industry for exposure management, catastrophe model development, event response and quick assessment of claims (see Lewis, Thomson and Ewing presentations). More work is required to develop early warning systems especially as insurers look to take on more high risks through ceding to pools such as the new Flood Re initiative in the UK. Richard Teeuw and Naomi Morris provided examples for the developing world and how free data can help in disaster risk reduction and humanitarian settings (see Teeuw presenation).

Overall the event provided some insights into how the London market is using remote sensing, highlighting opportunities as the technology is advancing and set to overcome its existing limitations around data availability, resolution, costs and sensors. The Q and A session brought a 'call to arms' to initiate the sharing of RS data for both disaster risk reduction (DRR) and insurance with the common aim of being better prepared and forewarned for natural disasters. A session on the DRR and Insurance theme is now being considered for the 2017 annual conference of RSPSoc.


Resources: DMSIG has produced the Quick Guide to Free Geoinformatics for Disaster Management: a catalogue of weblinks to free geospatial data, free geoinformatic software and free online tutorials for some of the freeware, which can be downloaded from this webpage.



GRSG is an association of enthusiasts keen on the geological aspects of remote sensing, which is jointly affiliated to RSPSoc and the Geological Society.

Read more: GRSG

Land Cover and Land Use SIG

Land cover and land use are fundamental underpinning information layers for a broad range of terrestrial environmental applications from local to global scales. They are important to conservation, impact assessment, spatial planning to climate modelling. From the beginning of remote sensing, the classification of the Earth’s surface into these types of information, either by photo interpretation or digital analysis, has been an important use of the technology.

Read more: Land Cover and Land Use SIG

Laser Scanning & Lidar SIG

The aim of the RSPSoc Laser Scanning & Lidar SIG is to provide a focus for space-borne, airborne & terrestrial laser scanning activity, both within the UK and internationally.

Read more: Laser Scanning & Lidar SIG

Marine Optics SIG

The Marine Optics SIG (formerly the Ocean Colour SIG) is jointly affiliated to RSPSoc and the Challenger Society for Marine Science, and aims to provide a UK focus for marine optics research users that enables them to easily exchange relevant information.

Read more: Marine Optics SIG

Synthetic Apeture Radar SIG

The purpose of the Group is to promote the development and use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and to encourage research in all aspects of SAR acquisition processing and interpretation.

Read more: Synthetic Apeture Radar SIG


The Technical/Operational Procedures Special Interest Group (TOPSIG) aims to promote and study technical procedures utilised in the operational use of remote sensing.

Read more: TOP SIG


SIG Convenor: Prof Daniel Donoghue


UAV systems are becoming established as platforms for remote sensing activity both for High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) missions and for low-altitude lightweight fixed-wing, helicopters and blimp / balloons / microlites.

The benefits of UAVs mainly lie in the ease, rapidity and cost of flexibility of deployment that lends itself to many land surface measurement and monitoring applications.

The past 5 years have seen a steady flow of high quality peer-review papers and research theses on remote sensing from UAV platforms for innovative applications. High altitude UAV platforms offer opportunities for innovative atmospheric science (primarily) while small, low-altitude systems are ideal for monitoring of crops, coastal algal blooms, riparian and rangeland vegetation and even for photogrammetry and laser scanning.

Upcoming SIG Event: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems for Environmental Research

Dates: 28th-29th June 2016

Location: University of Worcester, UK

Description: We invite you to attend this two-day conference of the RSPSoc’s UAVs SIG which will bring together academics, practitioners and those with an interest in working with small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) for environmental monitoring and research. This conference follows previously successful events held in Liverpool (2015), Exeter (2014) and Worcester (2013), and will include keynote addresses (speakers to be announced shortly), oral presentations, interactive poster sessions and an exhibition of sUAS service providers.

Topics: Oral presentations and posters will cover a range of environmental topics, including but not limited to:

  • Terrestrial applications – such as geomorphology, natural hazards, glaciology, archaeology, ecology, conservation, terrain assessment, agriculture, forestry, geology & geophysics
  • Hydrological applications – such river science, hydrology, coastal & marine
  • Atmospheric applications – such as aerobiology
  • Practicalities of data collection using sUAS (including licensing and flight regulations)
  • Processing and analysis of sUAS data (including photogrammetry and structure from motion)

Guest Speakers: further details will be made available in due course.

Abstracts: Email 300 word abstracts to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 15th April 2016, including author names and affiliations, contact details and preference for oral or poster presentation. Confirmation of abstract acceptance will be provided to authors in early May 2016.

Registration: Opens early April 2016. Fees will include attendance, conference materials, all refreshments and a sandwich lunch on both days. Please register in advance of the conference, as places will not be available on the day.

Fees: Standard rate: £90 / Student rate: £65

IJRS Publication Opportunity: All accepted conference papers will be considered for publication in a special issue of the International Journal of Remote Sensing. More details will be made available on our website in due course.

Sponsorship Opportunities:  Would your business benefit from exposure to our delegates? We anticipate the attendance of 70-100 delegates at our sUAS for Environmental Research conference. Opportunities are available for exhibition stands and conference sponsorship.Contact us by email for further details: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Conference website:


Past SIG Events:

Remote Sensing from small unmanned aerial systems, University of Worcester 4th July 2013

Description: The use of remotely sensed data collected using small, low altitude unmanned aerial systems or vehicles (UAVs) has seen significant growth in recent years, for a wide range of scientific applications. UAVs offer many benefits including flexibility and rapidity of use, low per-flight costs and the ability to collect ‘hyper-spatial’ data. Within this emerging field there is a need for the exchange of knowledge, theory and practical experiences, with a view to developing best practise and encouraging use in new application areas.

The aim of the workshop is explore the potential of these exciting platforms for research and management through facilitated discussion on data collection, analysis and application in a range of areas.

Guest Speakers: Dr Patrice Carbonneau (Durham University); Dr John Wells (West Lothian Archaeological Trust); Nigel King (Director at QuestUAV Ltd)

2011. Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society
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