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News — 14 July, 2015

Nepal Earthquake: A note of thanks to HOT’s aerial imagery providers


Aerial imagery is key to the work that HOT undertakes each day of the year. During a crisis, the need becomes even more acute. Pre-disaster imagery helps HOT volunteers all over the world trace homes, buildings and the road network into OpenStreetMap; enabling first responders to carry out search, rescue, and relief activities. Post-disaster imagery facilitates identification of damage to roads and buildings and can serve as a first step in identifying camps and temporary shelters for internally-displaced persons.

The response of the international community to the Nepal earthquake was unprecedented. More than 7000 volunteers helped trace satellite and aerial imagery to create base maps used on the ground, initially for relief and now for recovery. This simply would not have been possible without the generous support of the imagery community.

A number of organizations donated Nepal imagery directly to HOT and/or facilitated agreements with partners for distribution of imagery and tracing into OpenStreetMap by HOT volunteers. This includes (in alphabetical order) Amazon, the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES)/Airbus DS, Development Seed, Digital Globe, Google (Crisis Response and Skybox), Information Technology for Humanitarian Assistance Cooperation and Action (ITHACA), Mapbox, Microsoft Bing, Planet Labs, UAViators, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. State Department Humanitarian Information Unit’s Imagery to the Crowd (ITTC) project.

Unique to this activation was the number of providers that authorized free use of imagery that is typically available only to paying customers, and the rapid speed at which it was made available. Providers worked tirelessly to secure not only pre-quake images, but also new imagery as soon as there were breaks in the cloud cover over Nepal. The willingness to donate imagery and key skills such as imagery processing, along with the efficiency with which donations were made available, translate directly into the completeness of maps and, in turn, the effectiveness of relief efforts on the ground.

HOT deeply thanks each provider for their service to HOT, the humanitarian community, and the Nepali people; and is grateful for future collaboration in times of need.

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