Mapping constitutes an integral component of the process of managing land resources, and mapped information is the common product of analysis of remotely sensed data. Natural features and manufactured infrastructures, such as transportation networks, urban areas, and administrative boundaries can be presented spatially with respect to referenced co-ordinate systems, which may then be combined with thematic information. Baseline, thematic, and topographic maps are essential for planning, evaluating, and monitoring, for military or civilian reconnaissance, or land use management, particularly if digitally integrated into a geographic information system as an information base. Integrating elevation information is crucial to many applications and is often the key to the potential success of present day mapping programs.

Canada has been, and continues to be a world leader in mapping technology. Canada's immense land area with a rich resource potential, coupled with a small population base has necessitated the development of thorough and efficient mechanisms of investigating and recording land information. Traditionally, this information was obtained through surveying and photogrammetric techniques, which have been costly and time consuming, particularly for periodic revision of outdated information. Recent advances in computer technology (speed, data handling and storage capability) and a growing demand for digital databases and computer based mapping production capabilities have encouraged the use of remotely sensed information as a data source for cartographic applications.

There is a growing demand for the utilization of remote sensing data in map production, since the following benefits may be provided: stereo coverage, frequent revisits, timely delivery, wide area coverage, low labour intensity, virtually global coverage, and storage in digital format to facilitate subsequent updating and compatibility with current GIS technology.

End users of base maps and mapping products include resource companies (forestry, mining, oil), support and service industries (engineering), utility and infrastructure development agencies (pipelines, telecommunications, transportation, power), government mapping agencies, and the military. This diversification from traditionally military users to commercial applications has resulted in a greater demand for a wider range of mapping products, with emphasis placed upon the benefits of improved information content and scale, and accuracy versus data costs.

Canadian companies offering mapping services are likely to be looking abroad, as the greatest commercial potential exists within the international community. Developing countries are currently initiating mapping programs to cover large unsurveyed areas to increase their topographic and planimetric knowledge base. The derived information will be used to support territorial sovereignty issues, assess and monitor resource potential and exploitation, and encourage economic opportunity. Radar data will be relied on in tropical areas for remote sensing mapping solutions.

Mapping applications of remote sensing include the following:

  1. planimetry
  2. digital elevation models (DEM's)
  3. baseline thematic mapping / topographic mapping