The MAD Help Desk is closed. All MAD facilities (computer labs, workshop, photo studio, sound studio, darkroom, and film development room) are closed until further notice. You can access a lab computer remotely.

Remote sensing

Blended Landsat images of Waterloo.Remote sensing involves the acquisition of information about a surface, object, or other phenomenon from devices that are not in contact with the feature under investigation. This is performed by active or passive sensors. An active sensor supplies its own source of energy (e.g., LiDAR or radar), whereas a passive sensor measures electromagnetic radiation reflected or emitted by an object (e.g. Landsat, Sentinel 2).

If you need assistance for a remote sensing project in terms of data processing or data acquisition, please contact Mike Lackner.


All Windows teaching computer labs in Environment have the following software installed:

  • ENVI/IDL: Comprehensive remote sensing software.
  • PCI Geomatica: Comprehensive remote sensing software.
  • QT Reader: Freely available LiDAR point cloud viewer.
  • SNAP: Free open-source remote sensing software, developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), specialized for radar applications.
  • eCognition Trial: Object-based image analysis (OBIA) software, very good free trial software.

The links above to the vendors' websites include gateways to useful help pages and tutorials about the respective software packages.

There are other remote sensing software that might be of interest. A few examples are provided below:

  • LASTOOLS: Free open-source LiDAR processing software, requires no installation and thus can be downloaded and used in our labs.
  • Google Earth Engine: Cloud-based image processing platform that is free for research, education, and non-profit use.

See the list of software installed on MAD computer lab machines.

Data resources

Image demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between GIS and remote sensing.The Geospatial Centre located in the Dana Porter Library holds an image archive that includes air photos and satellite imagery.

Mike Lackner at MAD has LiDAR imagery for the University of Waterloo campus and surrounding areas from 2006, as well as high-resolution and hyper-spectral data of various areas not generally available to the public. He can also assist you with finding data for remote sensing projects based on individual needs.

Other useful online resources for remote sensing data and information:

  • USGS Earth Explorer: Access to imagery, including Landsat, MODIS, DEMs, and other USGS and NASA products.
  • ESA Copernicus Open Access Hub: Free and open access to Sentinel data products from the European Space Agency.
  • NRCAN Geomatics: Information on satellite imagery products, applications and methods, geodetic reference systems, etc., provided by Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN).

Who can use this service:

  • Current undergraduate students
  • Current graduate students
  • Faculty

How to request this service:

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EV2 - Environment 2
200 University Avenue West