The first months of 2008 have been characterized by several devastating natural disasters: people have had to face destruction caused by wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, and – probably most destructive – Cyclone Nargis and the severe Earthquake affecting the Chinese province of Seichuan.
When a disaster strikes, it is crucial that on-site response forces, local, national and international rescue organisations, as well as responsible government agencies receive precise information as quickly and reliably as possible.
In virtually all of the above-mentioned events, Infoterra and/or Spot Image have been able to support the immediate emergency response activities.
Delivery of satellite imagery for Myanmar following Cyclone Nargis
When Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in early May 2008, the countries’ military junta was reluctant to let international aid organizations into the country. Assessing damages and response requirements became virtually impossible; the full extent of the disaster remained unclear for a long time.
Yet thanks to satellite imagery, international authorities and rescue organizations were able to gain an overview on the effects of the disaster:
Following a call by the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, an archived SPOT-5 satellite image acquired on March 2nd, 2008, covering residential urban areas in and around Myanmar’s Capital City of Rangoon, was delivered. In comparison to this, a SPOT-4 image acquired May 6th, four days after the cyclone, clearly revealed the extent of flooding.
A TerraSAR-X radar data acquisition of May 8th – particularly significant as cloud cover does not affect the radar instrument – was used as a basis for a reliable flood extent map generated by the German Centre for Satellite Based Crisis Information.
Following these initial deliveries, a series of six optical images was acquired between May 7th and May 24th – valuable not only for follow-on monitoring purposes, but also as a basis for emergency response planning, as many activities were significantly delayed due to the delicate political situation.
TerraSAR-X & SPOT 5 support Earthquake Response in China
Following the severe Earthquake in the Chinese province of Seichuan later that month, Infoterra and Spot Image tasked their respective satellites to provide Chinese government agencies and rescue organizations with satellite imagery, interpretation support, maps, and rapid evaluations depicting the conditions of urban areas, infrastructure, and landscapes.
Within seven hours after reception at the ground station, the first processed TerraSAR-X imagery was delivered. At the same time, Infoterra and Spot Image experts in Europe and Beijing began evaluating and interpreting the data sets – enabling a delivery of detailed maps the following day.
Initial imagery and maps were mostly used for the recognition and assessment of damages, identification of focus areas, and an efficient coordination of actions. Further acquisitions in the following days have helped to identify natural dams caused by landslides; a basis for targeted blasting of dams that threatened settlements or other infrastructures.
Unique combination of satellite systems enables reliable services
These examples prove that today’s Earth observation satellites are a central source of information in time-critical situations.
Thanks to their multi-satellite programming and acquisition capabilities, Infoterra and Spot Image ensure a reliable provision of high-quality radar and optical satellite imagery as well as rapid evaluations of this data.
The companies resort to the German high-resolution radar satellite TerraSAR-X, the French optical SPOT satellite family, and Taiwan’s FORMOSAT-2; all of which they can task directly – an unrivalled operational high-resolution data acquisition capacity.
TerraSAR-X’s weather-independent radar sensor and its quick global site access (2.5 days max), as well as FORMOSAT-2 and the SPOT satellites enabling an optical image acquisition of any place on Earth each day, ensure a rapid data acquisition.
A timely data download and processing is guaranteed by an extensive network of receiving stations around the globe, and 24/7 availability of teams that provide near-real-time data processing and data delivery in case of time-critical requests.
Geo-information experts work day and night to ensure that Rapid Mapping Services are reliably performed: First map sheets and annotated situations maps become available within hours after data acquisition; detailed infrastructure and image analyses follow within the first day.
The teams resort not only to the latest acquisitions of the affected area, but – for orientation and reference, and in order to detect changes – to archived satellite data as well: more than 10 million archived SPOT and FORMOSAT-2 optical images and a continuously growing collection of TerraSAR-X radar imagery add up-to-date habitat and valuable ancillary information.
An immediate dissemination of satellite data, map sheets, and evaluations via established secure data delivery channels, typically online, guarantees that the information reaches its respective destination reliably and quickly. Particularly in emergency response actions; results are often made publicly available via the respective companies’ websites as well as internationally established networks, ensuring accessibility for national and international, governmental and non-governmental organizations worldwide.
Infoterra and Spot Image services do not terminate with the short-term emergency response actions: Follow-up monitoring of the impacted area enables detailed monitoring of progress, changes, and possible further effects of the catastrophe, offering continuous support of the medium-term emergency response activities.
Furthermore, the update of disaster preparedness plans with newly identified disaster zones, the implementation of enhanced emergency response plans, and an improvement of disaster prediction and simulation models based on new experiences and recognitions will benefit from follow-on acquisitions and evaluations.
Infoterra is a leading provider of geo-information products and services for managing the development, environment and security of our changing world.
Infoterra holds the exclusive commercial exploitation rights for the new German radar satellite TerraSAR-X, launched on June 15th, 2007 – enabling the company to provide weather-independent, high-resolution, new-quality radar data as well as reliable data access services. Further, the company provides quick and reliable access to an extensive range of further commercial satellite data, and operates a comprehensive range of airborne sensors.
Global customers include international companies, national, regional & local governments, as well as authorities such as the European Commission and the European Space Agency: Infoterra develops and validates efficient, sustainable services in three significant priority areas of the European GMES initiative.
Infoterra is part of EADS Astrium, Europe’s leading space systems and services specialist, and comprises established entities in France, Germany, Hungary, Spain, and the United Kingdom, with more than 350 employees and a turnover of over 60 Mio Euro in 2007.
About Spot Image
Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Spot Image has established subsidiaries in the USA, China, Singapore, Japan and Australia, with a sixth planned for summer 2008 in Brazil. As the commercial operator of the SPOT satellites and provider of imagery from other optical and radar satellites, Spot Image is a world leader in the provision of satellite imagery and geo-information value added services. For over two decades, Spot Image has successfully harnessed a range of space- and ground-based systems to meet customers’ needs. The Spot Image group leverages a global network of ground receiving stations, partners and distributors to bring geographic information, products and services to public- and private- sector decision makers worldwide.
Spot Image is closely linked to the Infoterra Group, as Infoterra’s parent company EADS Astrium, Europe’s leading space systems and services specialist, also holds significant shares in Spot Image.
SPOT 4 image of 6 May 2008 with urban areas bounded by yellow line, rivers in blue and flood zones in green. © Spot Image
Rapid infrastructure mapping based on a TerraSAR-X image acquired 16 May 2008 – assessment of infrastructure and damages. © Infoterra