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News — 23 November, 2016

Supporting Humanitarian Response with Better Imagery Coordination

Pre- and post-disaster satellite imagery is a critical resource for HOT and many humanitarian response organizations. Coordination of imagery acquisition, processing and sharing in the midst of a disaster is tough. HOT is now working to make this process easier.

As more remote sensing methods are being developed - including the increasing use of small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) - more imagery is also becoming available for mapping areas affected by natural disasters. HOT developed OpenAerialMap to support the growing needs of organizing, sharing and accessing all sources of openly licensed imagery.

The HOT Imagery Coordination working group is the community mechanism being adopted to assess imagery needs, coordinate acquisition and processing of fresh imagery by many generous HOT partners. The group has been working on improving processes and protocols for requesting imagery, but bottlenecks have remained. Following some community discussions at the HOT Summit and the recent user needs assessment conducted for PacDID, we just kicked off a new phase of work with our partners Development Seed to address those challenges by building tools for better imagery coordination.

The goal is to build a collaborative dashboard to manage imagery needs and supply workflows. Humanitarian mappers and disaster management stakeholders will be able to submit requests for areas of interest (AOIs) that need to be imaged, and providers (from satellite imaging companies, to individual UAV pilots) will supply available imagery or submit plans for collection. All imagery acquired is then automatically uploaded to OpenAerialMap and made available to anyone for mapping.


(showing above, initial wireframes for the imagery coordination app by Anna Scalamogna at Development Seed)

As we learned from our partners at the Pacific Community, a major challenge, especially when planning and conducting UAV missions is coordinating between stakeholders. Pilots and imagery requesters must communicate when, where, and what they are collecting to coordinate their activities. A common challenge is the process in which they share details (metadata) about their flights. Through PacDID we are combining well documented guidelines along with technical solutions to share the metadata, to ultimately make planning and flying UAV missions better coordinated.

As this is a community project to support all humanitarian responders, we want everyone to be involved during its development, by contributing ideas, code and feedback. Whether you are a UAV pilot, a satellite image provider, an OSM mapper or just simply love imagery (as much as we do!), head over to Github, or Slack (#imagery-coord channel) to join the conversation!

Nate and Mhairi from HOT will also be at the Pacific Islands GIS and Remote Sensing User Conference in Suva next week, presenting the PacDID project and organizing an OSM workshop at the University of South Pacific. If you are attending the conference we’d love to connect with you and discuss ideas for better imagery coordination and humanitarian UAV mapping.