Opticks Open Source Remote Sensing and Image Processing Software, a Community College GIS Program, and Collaboration

Nathan Jennings


The author has created and taught a remote sensing and digital image processing course as part of the core curriculum in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program at American River College since 2005. Until recently, the course was taught using proprietary digital image processing software suitable for processing remotely sensed imagery. As a result of tough economic times for the college and the Sacramento region, alternative “software tools” were investigated for viable alternatives to use within the remote sensing course. The Open Source Software community was researched and Opticks, an open source digital image processing software for remotely sensed imagery, was chosen because of its useful user graphical user interface, breadth of common image processing functions similar to those found in proprietary image processing software packages, ability to use a variety of remotely sensed image sensor formats, ability to integrate other geospatial information (such as vector data), the ability to continue to customize and enhance the functionality of the software, and strong user and development support.

The author reviewed a number of open source software packages that provide similar functionality to proprietary image processing software packages as well as its relative ease of use and compliments the current material taught in the remote sensing course at American River College. Opticks was found to have the best overall capability for a “free” open source software package that is suitable for a community college introductory remote sensing course.

As Opticks is continuing to be used within the remote sensing course at American River College, the author has formed an informal relationship with Ball Aerospace staff (the developers of Opticks) to assist with creating additional functionality with RADAR data, serve as a Google Summer of Code mentor since 2010, write a functional user guide, and provide feedback to the developers to enhance the software. As a result, the relationship has fostered a mutual benefit to Ball Aerospace, the American River College GIS Program, and for students seeking knowledge and experience in the remote sensing field.


Remote Sensing, Community College, Open Source Image Processing Software

Full Text:



To send direct feedback or article ideas to the Editorial team, please use this form.

Contribute / Contact

If you are interested in joining the editorial team you are welcome to Join the Journal mailing list and introduce yourself, your interests and area of expertise.