DigitalGlobe geospatial data aids in search and rescue efforts

May 1, 2014
EXECUTIVE Q&A: DigitalGlobe, which merged with GeoEye in 2013, provides earth observation and geospatial imagery, information, and advanced analysis tools that have been used to aid in myrFEATiad search and rescue efforts, including those related to Typhoon Haiyan. 


NAME: Glenn Reese
TITLE: Senior Product Manager
CO.: DigitalGlobe
ROLE: Provider of a suite of geospatial information products and services to help customers solve an increasingly complex array of problems

DigitalGlobe, which merged with GeoEye in 2013, provides earth observation and geospatial imagery, information, and advanced analysis tools that have been used to aid in myriad search and rescue efforts, including those related to Typhoon Haiyan.

What challenges or impediments exist to networked communications and sensors for homeland security and first response?

Effective emergency planning and response requires quick and easy access to accurate, up-to-date information, which is often a challenge for homeland security and first responders to acquire.

DigitalGlobe’s satellite imagery can provide an effective way to gauge the damage from disasters through comparisons of before, during, and after images that geospatial analysts can use to provide answers to the right people. In fact, DigitalGlobe’s FirstLook service relies on its satellite constellation and ground infrastructure to collect and deliver fresh, up-to-date imagery of an event to customers in as little as four hours. In many instances, like the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, satellite images can often be the only way to immediately see and understand the full scope of what’s happening on the ground.

What is FirstLook

FirstLook online subscription service for emergency management provides fast, Web-based access to imagery and vectors of damaged locations following a natural or manmade crisis. It helps ensure the most effective and efficient response during a time of crisis.

FirstLook’s vector layers, derived from the post-event imagery, aid in the identification of infrastructure or assets (e.g., buildings, towns, cities, villages, industrial parks, etc.) impacted by the applicable event. High-resolution satellite imagery combined with derived insight provides the essential information required for emergency planning, risk assessment, monitoring of staging areas and emergency response, damage assessment, and recovery.

How have DigitalGlobe’s technology and tools been employed for homeland security or first response?

In 2013, the FirstLook crisis team monitored 169 natural disasters, manmade crises, political instabilities, and human interest events, including wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and political instability.

On 7 November 2013, several hours before Typhoon Haiyan made landfall, DigitalGlobe activated its FirstLook service and in the first few days following the initial devastation, DigitalGlobe’s satellites collected and delivered more than 19,000 square kilometers of imagery in the hardest hit areas, including Tacloban City and the surrounding areas. Since the scale of the storm’s destruction was so massive, DigitalGlobe immediately asked volunteers to help map the devastation through DigitalGlobe’s crowdsourcing platform, Tomnod. Within the first few hours DigitalGlobe had more than 27,000 map views and 35,000 tags from volunteers. Ultimately, DigitalGlobe’s imagery and analysis helped rescue workers and relief personnel quickly understand the most affected areas and how to route first responders and relief supplies.

What will the future hold related to search-and-rescue efforts and satellite imagery?

Commercial satellite imaging capabilities are moving toward higher resolution, higher accuracy, and greater spectral diversity. At the same time, DigitalGlobe is investing in the development of Geospatial Big Data and analytic solutions, which are highly beneficial for homeland security and emergency response. With higher resolution and greater spectral diversity come larger volumes of data, which require increasingly sophisticated analytic tools and techniques to extract insight.

With our WorldView-3 satellite launching this summer, DigitalGlobe will be able to offer imagery that holds even more potential for homeland security and first responders. WorldView-3 has the ability to image the earth in both the visible and infrared parts of the spectrum. Its atmospheric instrument called CAVIS—which stands for cloud, aerosol, water vapor, ice, and snow—will monitor the atmosphere and provide correction data to improve WorldView-3′s imagery when areas of interest are obscured by haze, soot, dust, or other particulates. This capability will be particularly useful after natural disasters, such as hurricanes, typhoon, and wildfires.


· Before: TACLOBAN CITY, PHILIPPINES - NOVEMBER 10, 2013: This is a satellite image of Tacloban City, Philippines showing damage from Typhoon Haiyan collected on November 10, 2013.

· After: TACLOBAN CITY, PHILIPPINES - FEBRUARY 23, 2012: This is a satellite image of Tacloban City, Philippines collected on February 23, 2012.

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