The availability of repeat digital, synoptic measures of the earth’s surface has resulted in remote sensing of the earth’s surface forming the basis of many land change science (LCS) research questions. This article reviews passive digital remote sensing for the use of LCS and discusses the past, present and future directions for remote sensing applications within the LCS field. Rigorous detection of land cover change provides the foundation for improved understandings of human–environment interactions. Change detection includes the monitoring and assessing of land cover conversions and modifications that have become imperative to LCS. Generally land cover change analyses rely on digital remotely sensed data, in particular, passive satellite imagery. We aim to provide a general overview of the remote sensing methodologies used commonly for land cover change analyses and then consider more novel approaches for monitoring and assessing land cover change using the available technology. Finally, some of the main limitations to development in this field will also be discussed.