Four key uses of satellite RGB imagery in telecommunications planning

Explore the transformative role of satellite RGB imagery in telecom planning: key to efficient 5G rollout, building analysis, and more.

Listen to audio version of this blog post:

Revolutionizing Telecom Infrastructure: The Impact of Satellite RGB Imagery on 5G Planning and GIS Insights

Unlock advanced GIS insights for precise infrastructure placement and upgrades, ensuring optimal network performance and coverage.

To roll out telecom infrastructure efficiently, planners need the most accurate and detailed information possible. RGB imagery provides invaluable insights that help improve planning. 

Key takeaways:

  • RGB imagery is an essential tool when planning telecoms infrastructure rollout
  • It can help improve planning and maintenance while avoiding wasted time and effort  
  • Learn how RGB images are generated using satellite imagery
  • Discover four advanced uses of RGB imagery in telecoms planning

The creation of RGB imagery has changed the world. Ever since the invention of electronic displays (from TVs, to computer monitors, to smartphones), billions of people have viewed countless images and films on screens created by pixels that emit the colors red, green and blue in different intensities. 

And RGB imagery has been just as transformative in the telecoms industry. Full color aerial photography and satellite imagery has long been used by planners to understand the layout of cities, towns and rural areas to decide on the best locations for cell towers or base stations. 

When satellite imagery was first used in telecoms planning, aerial imagery alone gave planners a huge advantage compared to traditional paper maps. Since then, the technology has advanced dramatically, with modern RGB imagery giving even greater insights. 

What is RGB imagery?

On any standard digital display (laptop, computer monitor, smartphone, TV, etc.), there are hundreds of thousands - or even millions - of individual pixels. Each of these pixels can emit light in three colors: red, green and blue. 

The light from each individual pixel can be emitted in different intensities and combinations. When you combine the colors red, green and blue in different ways it is possible to produce any color. 

For example, if all pixels on a screen only emit green light, then the image on the screen will appear entirely green. But if you have hundreds of thousands of pixels emitting blue and red light, the screen would appear purple (or, more precisely, magenta) to the human eye. 

Earth observation satellites produce RGB images

Most remote sensing satellites carry a variety of cameras that are sensitive to light energy. When electromagnetic energy (mainly from the sun) bounces off the earth’s surface, cameras onboard the satellites capture it. The information is then sent via radar to stations on the ground. Image processing and color balancing techniques turn that raw data into RGB imagery which is visible on a digital screen. 

Many satellites can also produce multispectral imagery - which includes spectral bands that are not visible to the human eye. This includes things like ultraviolet energy or infrared energy. Multispectral imagery has many uses - but is particularly valuable in agriculture. For example, infrared imagery can be used to remotely monitor the health of crops. When vegetation reflects infrared light in certain ways, it can, for instance, tell us that plants are water stressed. This wouldn’t be visible on an RGb image. 

For a detailed overview of how satellites turn energy into images, read this article on the US government’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service website. 

4 uses of RGB imagery for telecommunications 

For decades, telecom firms have been using satellite images of the earth’s surface to help plan infrastructure. RGB imagery can be fed into GIS (geographic information system) software and combined with other geospatial data to help planners attain a deep understanding of the places they want to install infrastructure. 

The earliest form of satellite imagery in telecom planning was not radically different to the ‘satellite’ layer that can be applied on popular apps like Google Maps. It provided telecom planners with information about things like:

  • Where buildings are currently located
  • The location of rivers and lakes
  • The presence or absence of vegetation

This information could be used to plan the location of cell towers or base stations. It ensured they’d be able to transmit to the highest number of subscribers, without being disrupted by natural and man-made obstacles. 

However, the technology has advanced significantly since then. Today, professional-grade satellite RGB imagery is being used for much more sophisticated purposes. Here are four of its most important uses in modern telecoms planning. 

1. 5G planning

One of the great challenges with 5G infrastructure is that signals from emitters will attenuate over short distances. What is more, signals can be blocked by things like foliage or bodies of water. 

And this is why very high resolution RGB imagery is so important. The images help very clearly identify any possible obstacles during land cover analysis. They help RF planners visualize line of sight when selecting locations for antennas and base stations. 

For example, a high resolution RGB image can help you differentiate between different types of vegetation. A patch of grass, for instance, won’t affect 5G signal propagation. But a tree with a large crown certainly will. High resolution RGB imagery means you can clearly see the difference between vegetation types. 

Related: 5G will disappoint without better planning

2. Building height and density analysis

When telecoms planners are planning infrastructure rollout and upgrades, it is extremely helpful to have an understanding of building height and density. This helps with estimating how many people live in a neighborhood, and how many base stations are needed. It also helps them to identify physical obstacles and clutter. 

Again, RGB imagery helps here. Full color satellite imagery can be used by cartography experts to identify typical ‘signatures’ of building roofs and styles. For example, in one city, buildings with orange tiled roofs might typically be one-storey tall. But those with flat, gray roofs tend to be tower blogs. RGB imagery allows experts to differentiate between different building types, then assign labels to them. This, in turn, helps us better estimate building height and density.

You might also like: What is LiDAR mapping?

3. Orthoimagery and orthorectification

Orthoimagery is the process of correcting distortions created by the angle of the camera on a satellite (the ground directly below the satellite will appear as from above, but further away from the center of the image, the angle of buildings or land formations will start to appear slanted). 

RGB imagery helps with orthorectification. Using powerful software, cartographers can use shadow length to edit the image so buildings are shown in their true position. This would not be possible without RGB images. 

Having orthorectified images is vital in telecoms infrastructure planning. Technicians need to know the true location, position and angle of building and landscape features. Without accurate information, they could easily place cell towers or base layers too far from, or too close to, buildings or land masses. 

4. Building and tree polygon extraction

One of the most exciting applications of RGB imagery is in building polygon extraction. Artificial Intelligence programs can be trained to identify color ‘signatures’ of buildings or tree crowns. These can then be extracted as a separate layer in GIS software. 

For RF planning, building and tree polygon extraction is incredibly useful. It further enhances line of sight planning, and ensures base stations are placed in the most suitable locations. 

Next generation telecoms planning with RGB imagery

For decades, telecom planners have benefited from satellite RGB imagery for choosing the locations of cell towers, base stations and other infrastructure. And when ‘true color’  images are combined with today's most advanced GIS technologies and cartography processes, they can become even more valuable and insightful. 

Contact LuxCarta today, and learn how we use RGB imagery to produce accurate, detailed and insightful maps to support your telecom infrastructure rollout plans


Similar posts