Introduction to Remote Sensing of Cross Border Conflicts: A Guide for Analysts

Date Published: 
11 Mar 2015

Outbreaks of hostilities along international borders can be difficult to predict. Even in cases where the countries involved share a well-known and long-running dispute, escalations often appear to occur with little to no warning. With the benefit of hindsight, indicators of an impending conflict may be identifiable; however these are often overlooked as a crisis develops. A number of factors can explain observers’ frequent inability to discern the warning signs of an impending conflict. For example, the areas in which such conflicts first erupt are often inaccessible to researchers, either due to their remoteness, bureaucratic or administrative obstacles, or unstable internal security. Furthermore, indicators that are identified post-facto as having led to a crisis can often appear to be innocuous as they are taking place. Satellite imagery, with its ability to reliably document remote areas over a long period of time, provides a way to overcome many of these challenges. This module is designed to help independent investigators apply the lessons learned from AAAS’s border conflict research to their own work. It formed part of a project on studying border conflict made possible by a grant from the United States Institute of Peace. Read more at

The following Google Earth layers accompany the exercises described in Introduction to Remote Sensing of Cross-Border Conflicts: A Guide for Analysts:

Lesson 2: Evaluating Infrastructure

Lesson 3: Evaluating Military Vehicles and Equipment

Lesson 4: Evaluating Damage and Direct Evidence of Conflict