Review of remote sensing for land administration: Origins, debates, and selected cases

Rohan Bennett, M.N. Koeva, Kwabena Assiama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Conventionally, land administration—incorporating cadastres and land registration—uses ground-based survey methods. This approach can be traced over millennia. The application of photogrammetry and remote sensing is understood to be far more contemporary, only commencing deeper into the 20th century. This paper seeks to counter this view, contending that these methods are far from recent additions to land administration: successful application dates back much earlier, often complementing ground-based methods. Using now more accessible historical works, made available through archive digitisation, this paper presents an enriched and more complete synthesis of the developments of photogrammetric methods and remote sensing applied to the domain of land administration. Developments from early phototopography and aerial surveys, through to analytical photogrammetric methods, the emergence of satellite remote sensing, digital cameras, and latterly lidar surveys, UAVs, and feature extraction are covered. The synthesis illustrates how debates over the benefits of the technique are hardly new. Neither are well-meaning, although oft-flawed, comparative analyses on criteria relating to time, cost, coverage, and quality. Apart from providing this more holistic view and a timely reminder of previous work, this paper brings contemporary practical value in further demonstrating to land administration practitioners that remote sensing for data capture, and subsequent map production, are an entirely legitimate, if not essential, part of the domain. Contemporary arguments that the tools and approaches do not bring adequate accuracy for land administration purposes are easily countered by the weight of evidence. Indeed, these arguments may be considered to undermine the pragmatism inherent to the surveying discipline, traditionally an essential characteristic of the profession. That said, it is left to land administration practitioners to determine the relevance of these methods for any specific country context.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4198
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalRemote sensing
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2021




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