Space-Based Communications And Imagery Invaluable For Disaster Relief

October 25, 2016 – In the aftermath of Hurricanes Matthew and Nicole, the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) reminded policy and lawmakers of the vital role satellites play in providing communications and other important services following a natural disaster. Because satellite networks operate far above the earth’s surface, they are not vulnerable to damage by storms. Therefore satellite communications may often be the only way government and emergency first responders can communicate, track critical emergency assets and access valuable post-disaster imagery when terrestrial networks are damaged and are simply unavailable.

“Because satellite communications provide an unparalleled level of reliability and ubiquity, it is critical for government relief agencies, private enterprise and even consumers to consider satellite communications and other services when providing warning to the public or planning for emergencies such as a hurricane,” said Tom Stroup, President of the Satellite Industry Association. Because of this reliability, many satellite companies already have long standing relationships with a number of Government organizations both here in the United States and around the globe. These relationships help to ensure that first responders and relief workers have access to vital communications and information wherever and whenever they are needed.”

The availability of reliable mobile satellite voice and data services for relief agencies and first responders following a natural disaster is already well documented. The use of satellite imagery and remote sensing data is also quickly becoming a key part of disaster response.

Colorado-based DigitalGlobe, Inc., a global leader in earth imagery, operates an advanced constellation of commercial imaging satellites. DigitalGlobe partnered with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) to help emergency and aid workers respond to Hurricane Matthew’s destruction in Haiti. The company released high-resolution satellite imagery of pre-hurricane Haiti as open data. HOT included the imagery in their platform so volunteers can map where buildings and roads were located. DigitalGlobe employees gathered for “mapathons” at three of its U.S. offices to help with the mapping efforts. Organizations like the American Red Cross, United Nations, Catholic Relief Services, and government agencies use those maps, along with post-hurricane imagery, to ensure response decisions can be made with confidence. DigitalGlobe’s post-hurricane imagery is also being used in TOMNOD, the company’s public responders on the ground further data about what areas most urgently need help.

“Governments and non-profit organizations have long used satellite imagery for visual reference after disasters. The unique collaboration of satellite imagery, specialized project coordinators, digital volunteers, and open data is creating a new frontier for quickly getting actionable information into the hands of first responders,” said Kevin Bullock, Director of Business Development at DigitalGlobe. “Our satellite constellation allows us to image the entire affected area of Haiti on a daily basis. That data is available on our website as well as accessible via our platform for analysis in order to allow organizations to change their responses to the crisis based
on the latest information.”

Read more about DigitalGlobe’s response to Hurricane Matthew on the DigitalGlobe Blog.