Module M11 - Participatory Mapping using Remote Sensing Images

Unit M11U03 - Interpreting Aerial Photos and Satellite Image


Visual interpretation of aerial photos and satellite images is based on our ability to relate colours and patterns in an image to real world features. Images can be interpreted by being displayed on a computer monitor or in hard copy form.

This Unit provides an introduction to visual image interpretation. It explains interpretation fundamentals and shows how to recognise the main elements of images. It gives practical tips about the scale of maps and images, and the relevance of fieldwork for image interpretation.

Unit objectives / expected outcomes

After the completion of the Unit the trainee will be able to:

  • discuss principles of image interpretation;
  • differentiate between two fundamental situations of interpretation;
  • explain seven interpretation elements;
  • describe the process of mapping with images;
  • explain the importance of appropriate scale, fieldwork and quality aspects.

Content outline, main topics covered and suggested sequencing

This Unit focuses on the topics listed below:

  1. Interpreting aerial photos and satellite images (PPT No. 1) (30 min)
  2. Land-cover mapping with aerial photographs (Exercise No. 1 and PPT No. 2) (3 hrs or 5 hrs including field survey)

Components of the Unit


Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in printed format):

Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in digital format)



3½ hrs (or 5½ hrs including field survey)

Additional trainer resources

  • Tempfli, K., Kerle, N., Janssen, L.F. and Huurneman, G. (eds.), 2008, “Principles of Remote Sensing”, Fourth edition ISBN 90–6164–227–2, ITC, Enschede, The Netherlands.

Equipment needed

Computer, digital projector, aerial photos for Exercise No. 1, transparent overlays (four per participant, slightly larger size than the printed photos; A4 size), pencils of different colours, permanent black, fine-tip markers; masking tape, printed Exercise No. 1 for each participant

Additional downloads