Remote sensing in Africa

Milsat Technologies
3 min readMar 2, 2021


The ability to acquire information about a place or phenomena at a distant location would have probably looked impossible in the 18th century. Although maps have been in existence for ages, there were limitations in creating accurate maps with optimum details. More so, the basic development of maps in ages past centered around storytelling and crude measurements of land area. In the 19th century, the technology of remote sensing came into the scenes. It has since evolved in its dynamics, giving chance to geo enthusiasts to monitor and observe changes in remote locations without leaving their comfort zones.

What is remote sensing?

Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about an object, location, or phenomenon via a device that is not in contact with the object, location, or phenomenon under investigation. It is often described as a ‘technology superpower’ that allows you to acquire accurate information about a point of interest without having direct contact with it. In recent years, the technology has evolved to include the interpretation of aerial photographs and the analysis of satellite imagery. More so, remote sensing techniques have primarily been viewed as a means of gathering data that are then analyzed by the end-users; however, they are increasingly serving other roles in scientific and applied research.

Africa and Remote sensing

Although technology in Africa had a slow start, things have taken a new turn in recent years. Various sectors and industries are becoming increasingly interested in technology and its application potentials. In the same vein, the use and applicability of spatial data in Africa have grown by leaps and bounds during the past few years. More so, at the global level, location data has rapidly become priceless.

Consequently, remote sensing techniques has become inevitably necessary in Africa; however, the technology revolves around accurate instrumentation. Satellites, airborne equipment and platforms, UAVs, and the more recent drone technology characterize the technology of data acquisition through remote sensing. Compared to other parts of the world, Africa has a low investment in the various types of equipment needed to fully scale remote sensing technology in the continent. This has led to a considerable lack of accuracy in the available data sets in Africa.

Furthermore, Africa is blessed with a lot of mappable phenomena and resources of interest. These resources include agricultural lands, geological and geomorphological structures, vegetation variation amongst others. The knowledge gap that exists has made it uphill to acquire accurate information about these phenomena and their locations.

Private firms are now the frontrunners in remote sensing technology in Africa. Private-owned geospatial firms now utilize drone technology and mobile mapping systems to acquire information that directly substitutes for the more expensive satellite utilities. The increased investment of private firms in Africa remote sensing technology is poising the continent for a massive revolution in the types of datasets available through remote sensing techniques.

The way forward

It is time to take remote sensing technology in Africa by the scuff of its neck. Government-owned agencies should take a step to foster a private-public partnership that will enable the availability of multiple datasets and increased organization across the board. A seamless collaboration should exist between the private investors, propagating idea sharing and organized data collection. Also, the application of remote sensing technologies should be widely introduced to all African countries, to bring Africa on a global spatial data platform. Consequently, African Geoscientists will be able to work out projects between different countries, thereby enhancing the global correlation of African countries in development issues.



Milsat Technologies

We design and develop geospatial solutions that make data acquisition and access easy for businesses and groups in Africa