With the advancements in technology, rescue services now closely monitor real-time ground images captured by modern satellites, which involve advanced sensors combined with on-board analytics and artificial intelligence.
Fremont, CA: The word space technology resonates with images of satellites and rockets to most people. However, space technology is also applicable to various other sectors. For several years, emergency response services have leveraged satellites and aerial imagery. With the advancements in technology, rescue services now closely monitor real-time ground images captured by modern satellites, which involve advanced sensors combined with on-board analytics and artificial intelligence. The images captured by these satellites are of great detail and provide detailed insights.
These detailed images provide first responders a level of visibility and situational awareness that is unavailable from other forms of monitoring or reconnaissance. Weather and storm damage detail that was not available earlier is now at the disposal of scientists and emergency services, thanks to the modern satellites. The U.S. government, in 2016, launched the GOES-16 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, with an aim to give weather forecasters more detailed weather maps. After its launch, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began using the satellite to track hurricanes and tornadoes.
Responding to Hurricanes
After Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas in early September 2019, NASA created and supplied a satellite-generated damage assessment map to emergency response organizations. Using satellite data from the European Union’s Sentinel-1 Copernicus program, the damage assessment map identified areas that were the most damaged by the storm. The map was created by NASA's Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, the California Institute of Technology, and the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
Also, on the request of the State Department and the Department of Defense, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) created an unclassified web portal to provide geospatial support for areas affected by the hurricane. The NGA works directly with the lead federal agencies responding to fires, floods, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, or other natural or human made disasters.
Tackling Forest Fires
In addition to this, NASA and NOAA are operating a constellation of satellites that can combine with a fleet of airplanes, the U.S. Forest Service to help detect and map the size and impact of forest fires. Firefighting agencies leverage satellite data to make better decisions in life and death situations like sending in smokejumpers to a site or evacuating the area when the fire spreads. According to NASA, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS, flies on the Joint Polar Satellite System's NOAA/NASA Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites and represents the latest satellite-based fire-detection technology available.
The MODIS instrument mapped fires and burn scars more accurately than any other technology today. Even after being in orbit for 20 years, the optical and thermal bands on MODIS still provide high-quality daytime visible imagery and night-time information on active fires. The VIIRS imager band operates at a high spatial resolution of 375 meters per pixel, which allows it to detect small, low-temperature fires.
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