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ANSUR: EO in Situational Awareness with real-time ASIGN in-situ integration

The geo-referenced in-situ component of EO can be a powerful enabler for remote sensing. It can help verify EO data, complement observations, improve resolution and calibrate remote sensing. Geo-referenced photos, video and sensors are relevant in-situ sensors, and they can be on the ground or flown at low altitude using for example microdrones. In-situ observations can identify the need for further remote sensing data or vice versa. However, a common challenge with in-situ is the availability of it – and specifically the rapid availability of it. The latter is due partly to communication challenges in remote regions, or in general for situational awareness.

Rapid availability of both in-situ and satellite data is clearly required during disasters and emergencies, and AnsuR is working closely with both the UN and the EU Civil protection here.

Crowdsourcing, using geo-tagged and time-stamped images can be a powerful element in situational awareness, and can help both verify satellite observations or trigger the capture of such in order to verify in-situ data in a broader perspective.

Synchronized in-situ and remote sensing using prepositioned microdrones is in focus as well. We see this as particularly suitable as a component to GMES.

About AnsuR Technolgies AS

AnsuR Technologies AS is a Norwegian SME, specifically working on rapid access to in-situ data and possibilities for EO integration for use in the context of emergency and disasters, rapid mapping or commercial operations. AnsuR are further leading work in integrated satellite solutions in EU, and builds further on two of its innovation award winning solutions, ASIGN and BirdNest.

ASIGN is the optimal solution for rapid and reliable access to high resolution in-situ data for real-time or near real-time operations. BirdNest is a microdrone docking hangar with remote control options.

AnsuR is initiator and coordinator of the FP7 SPACE Project GEO-PICTURES, and has projects with ESA in the Value Added EO Elements area. Specifically AnsuR has several projects with UN/UNOSAT-UNITAR.

AnsuR is also covering activities when using Smartphone solutions for in-situ visual data, various sensors including climate measurements in the Amazonas and Unmanned Areial Vehicle (UAV) solutions (with Quadro-copters) in the AnsuR BirdEye subsidiary. AnsuR BirdEye is responsible for the BirdNest UAV hangar and the SW control systems. BirdNest can be integrated with ASIGN and coordinated with EO data acquisition.

The goals of AnsuR within EO is the:

  • Integration of real-time in-situ data
  • Coordination and synchronization of in-situ and remote sensing data capture
  • Use of microdrones both to complement space and in-situ observation
  • Offering in-situ and EO data for situational awareness, like emergency, disaster management
  • Raid distribution of in-situ and EO observations to field users

ASIGN in-situ for Situational Awareness and Rapid Mapping

ASIGN from AnsuR is the award-winning solution for optimized transfer of high-resolution geo-referenced multimedia information, video streaming, video files, photos and sensor in-situ data. The main challenge is that one can not rely on stable connections, and have to expect narrowband communication links frequently.

Developed for applications such as disaster and emergency management, damage assessment, surveillance, situational awareness, quality management and photo-journalism, ASIGN images are bearers of important and urgently required information.

Situational awareness cannot be limited to areas of good broadband connection. Therefore, ASIGN can be used over any communication link, a true “anywhere, anytime”, including mobile satellite systems like BGAN. When terrestrial communication links have broken down, or coverage is poor, communication via satellite may be the only viable option. In any event, crisis and emergencies are likely to generate significantly more than usual load on networks.

The in-situ data can form a powerful verification and calibration tool for earth observation and rapid mapping. With the rapid availability of in-situ geo-tagged images from AnsuR in the GEO-ASIGN project UNOSAT is able to better assess and verify findings from satellite data when we do rapid mapping for humanitarian operations for UN.

The fact that ASIGN as such operates with practical communications links, that can be low rate and unstable, is essential for field use.

Figure 1: Rapid Integration of in-situ and EO data in an operation center server, and coordinated distribution to field users.

Figure 2: Illustration of how the ASIGN system works in two steps for providing initial previews and then high resolution data. The same concept is used for the EO browser.

Figure 3: Images from Haiti.

Figure 4: Video capture as a storyboard.

Micro-drones in EO Settings

Use of small microdrones / UAV with photo or video camera, or sensors, can provide aerial in-situ data. With ASIGN integrated into the payload, multimedia data can also be directly transferred while the UAV is in flight. The control of the flight track can be either manual or automatic based on navigation waypoints – or a mix of the two. Quadro-copter UAVs can function both as a very high camera tripod for oblique photos, or as a very low “satellite” helping to do small scale rapid mapping. Measurements can be done several hundred meters up. Currently the UAV sector is the most innovative part of the aeronautical business.

Figure 5: Remote, Aerial and ground sensors.

Figure 6: Microdrone docking hangar control can be coordinated with EO data orders.

EO browser for low bandwidth

Earth Observation images are large files relative to some typical low rate communication systems used in disaster management, such as Inmarsat BGAN. However, rapid mapping and rapid assessments often need to be communicated to the field. AnsuR has developed an efficient EO data browser, based on ASIGN technology, for low bandwidth channels for such use cases. The ASIGN EO Browser thus allows field users to access large satellite images rapidly.

Figure 7: Snapshots from the rapid and light bandwidth optimized EO data browser.

Synchronized in-situ and space-abased data

With the help of KSAT a few years ago, the first synchronized data acquisition was done with Radarsat-2 and in-situ ground photos (in this case as sea), where we captured two boats in the Oslofjord at the same time as the satellite captured a Radar Image. Since then AnsuR has focused further on the value of synchronized EO and in-situ data capture of visual and sensor data. We believe this concept carries significant value within several sectors.

Figure 8: Synchronized in-situ and space data capture.

Smartphone All-in-one in-situ assessment solution

Disaster assessment professionals have requested an all-in-one solution for in-situ data capture. Therefore AnsuR has developed a first version based on Android smartphones that are successfully used in the field with e.g. UN and EU Civil protection. Several hundred images were sent by UN from Haiti after the earthquake for rapid verification of assessments done from space based observations.

User feedback shows that close to all users would be happy with an all-in-one integrated field assessment unit that could help provide in-situ data.

Figure 9: Smartphones are excellent for light and convenient in-situ data capture.

In-situ Crowdsourcing

A specific crowdsourcing version of the Android ASIGN application has been released with the EMSC in Paris, for public help and collaboration following earthquakes. The RICHTER application allows witnesses locally to rapidly contribute with geo- and time-stamped in-situ image material. Hundreds of users are testing this RICHTER application as of Q1 2011, and feedback is very positive.

User Status and Feedback

There are more than 100 Crowdsourcing users for EMSC, and an overwhelming majority says the solution is useful and will keep it. United Nations are using ASIGN in the context of GEO-PICTURES all over the world, and has plans to ramp up in humanitarian and disaster management. EU Civil Protection is regularly using ASIGN in their training courses in order to prepare users for live action. Brazil has increasing focus in use of ASIGN in civil protection and environmental disaster management with additional local development.

AnsuR Technologies AS, NORWAY
For further info please contact Dr. Harald Skinnemoen, Founder and CEO: harald(at), or see also