Remote Sensing at RIT Wins $2.4 Million Grant

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A camera pointed at earth from the belly of an airplane or satellite captures our global self-portrait, warts and all. The growing field of remote-sensing technology gives scientists a unique tool and a new perspective on our planet. Scientists at Rochester Institute of Technology are developing technology for the U.S. Navy that holds potential for wide-reaching environmental benefits, such as monitoring pollution levels in bodies of fresh water.

In this respect, remote sensing could potentially affect everyone as natural resources and clean water grow dear.

The U.S. Department of Defense's Office of Naval Research recently awarded RIT a $2.4 million grant to devise new methods for processing and analyzing data captured in wavelengths invisible to the human eye.

This specialized technology will help the U.S. Navy detect submerged mines, map pollution levels and nuisance vegetation in water, predict water clarity and depth along shorelines, identify suitable locations for landing troops and monitor emissions released from factory stacks.

RIT is one of only 48 recipients of this grant, known as a multidisciplinary university research initiative (MURI), from a pool of more than 150 full proposals and the only recipient statewide.

A new generation of satellite and airborne sensors captures data in spectral bands or light waves ranging from visible through infrared wavelengths. A team of scientists at RIT's Laboratory for Advanced Spectral Sensing (LASS) in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (CIS) will transform the raw data into useful information.

"These instruments can capture data well beyond the capabilities of the human eye," says Michael Richardson, project manager. "The RIT team will develop methods to extract precise information from the captured data."

Adds principal investigator John Schott: "The volumes of raw data produced by these sensors can overwhelm both human interpreters and conventional computational tools. The RIT MURI is focused on developing techniques to merge physical models with advanced computational algorithms," he says. "This should allow us to see more things and do it more efficiently so that operational analysis of the images can be done largely, if not entirely, by computer."

Schott, director of LASS and the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab in CIS, will lead a team including RIT imaging scientists Anthony Vodacek and Richardson, and colleagues from Cornell University and the University of California at Irvine. Because members of the research team work on opposite coasts, the high speed of Internet II will play a significant role in the project.

The project, funded for a minimum of three years and beginning in May, exemplifies RIT's First in Class Initiative, a university-wide program that forms partnerships with industry and U.S. government agencies. LASS uses the capabilities of remote sensing and spectral science to extract useful information from complex data.

The Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, part of the College of Science at RIT, offers bachelor's and master's degrees and the nation's only Ph.D. in imaging science. The research and teaching laboratories at the center, established in 1985, are dedicated to electronic imaging, digital image processing, remote sensing, medical imaging, color science, optics and chemical imaging.