Improving Resilience with Aerial Imagery
Earlier this month Nate and I went to Suva to lead the kickoff meeting of the Pacific Drone Imagery Dashboard (PacDID) project funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. During the visit, we met and brainstormed with local geospatial experts and stakeholders around the issues of disaster management and aerial imagery. By the end of the week, we had a clear understanding of the challenges that Pacific Island Countries (PICs) face during natural disasters.
Our main local partner in this project, the Pacific Community (SPC), is a scientific and technical development organisation governed by 26 countries and territories of the region. Within SPC, the Geoscience Division supports member countries in every aspect of Disaster Management (DM), from preparedness, to response, to recovery. Their experienced staff provides geospatial and remote sensing services to many Pacific countries and directly works with ministries, non-government organizations and National Disaster Management Offices (NDMOs) before, during and after a disaster.
In PacDID we leverage SPC’s experience and role to understand needs around aerial imagery in the region. As already advocated through OpenAerialMap, efficient access to imagery can lead to improved mapping workflows and better disaster response. During the kickoff meeting, we talked to local stakeholders involved in mapping, humanitarian response, and disaster management to understand existing gaps in collecting, sharing, managing and using imagery data. To facilitate these discussions, we organized a series of brainstorming sessions. We first looked at the broad potential use of high-resolution imagery, not only in the context of disaster management but also in support of applications such as for coastal erosion monitoring, vegetation mapping and urban planning.
After organizing all the ideas into application domains and temporal categories (event based, seasonal, long-term), we identified two priority areas around long term baseline data mapping (e.g. buildings and roads) and coastal monitoring (e.g. for erosion). These priorities reflect the specific needs of the region to better understand assets and physical infrastructures in remote PIC environments, with small islands often hard to access and most vulnerable to climate change impact. By discussing priority applications of aerial imagery, we agreed with SPC and other participants, to focus the next step of brainstorming around the workflow of collecting risk exposure information for buildings. Knowing the location of homes built provides governments with better information to reduce vulnerabilities, assess damage after a disaster, and invest in creating more resilient communities.
We then analyzed the workflow of mapping buildings from aerial imagery and broke it down into steps to identify goals, behaviors and “pain points” for each of the roles involved. This process helped us to visualize how the specific needs for imagery are defined, how those needs are translated into procurement of aerial surveys, how the data is acquired from satellite providers or in the field using drones, how the data is transferred and managed, and finally how it is being used to compile information about existing or new buildings.
The last part of the meeting focused on identifying issues and challenges in the workflow. This information will provide input and guidance on how PacDID is being developed to improve the process of collecting, processing, managing and using aerial imagery. Over the next few weeks, we will finalize the project implementation plan and start working with SPC and other partners. With PacDID we’re not only creating a platform for sharing and finding imagery but also developing technical guidelines for efficient data collection with drones. In this process, we want to reach out to the industry and the international community of drone mappers to start a global discussion on metadata, coordination protocols, and data standards.
Finally, we want to thank the Geoscience Division at SPC for hosting the meeting and coordinating with local stakeholders. Their leadership in implementing sustainable open source solutions, promoting data sharing and use of innovative technology such as drones for mapping, makes it a great partner for HOT. During our week in Suva, we also enjoyed meeting and really appreciated input from local stakeholders including the Fiji Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources, the University of South Pacific, the United Nations’ Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Coastal Community Adaptation Project (C‑CAP), the Australian High Commission in Fiji - DFAT office, the New Zealand High Commission, Skyward Industries, and HOT’s partners at the World Bank, WeRobotics and OpenDroneMap.
Everyone in Fiji was incredibly hospitable and resourceful. We look forward to working with the Pacific Community to increase resilience through aerial imagery and mapping!