Stephen Wood, Vice President, DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center
Even now, after we’ve imaged the entire earth’s surface many times over, I continue to be amazed at the unique, critical perspective satellite imagery offers to the pressing events of our time. In the last decade we’ve been involved in responding to many disasters. There has been nothing like the recent disaster in Japan—a terrible and devastating combination of a massive earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear disaster. Thankfully, our constellation has been able to cover all of this.
Monitoring in this kind of situation takes on a new dimension. When numerous hazards, from road wreckage to nuclear explosion risks, make it impossible to conduct on-the- ground assessments, only the eyes in the sky can safely see what is going on. Passing over the impact zone for ten straight days, our satellites revealed widespread destruction including evidence of collapsed structures, extensive debris, massive flooding and damage to key infrastructure. They witnessed the explosions and failures at nuclear facilities (including incredible images taken less than one minute before and three minutes after the explosion at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Facility, Unit #3), documented the state of the country’s highways, and assessed damage at the main ports and refineries.
DigitalGlobe’s online web and analytic services, FirstLook and FirstWatch, enabled browsers to see damage on a street-by-street basis, enabling in-country organizations to deliver aid and medical care and attempt to rescue those trapped in collapsed buildings. We have now collected nearly 500,000 square kilometers in imagery of the disaster region—more than Japan’s total land mass of 377,923 square kilometers. The whole idea of revisit and refresh takes on new importance in this situation. Using our ImageLibrary—the largest in the world—our team was able to match fresh images with historical archives to confirm rapidly the degree of damage to the area.
Our imagery and analysis are helping the Japanese and U.S. governments, FEMA, the United Nations, Open Street Maps and concerned groups and citizens around the world to understand the scope of the disaster, manage the ever-changing situation on the ground and set the path for recovery. Though this disaster is oceans away from many of us, it will have major political and economic repercussions across the globe for years to come. We hope that with our efforts and technology, we’ll continue to bring insights into this situation a little closer to home.
For more information, visit www.digitalglobe.com.
The views expressed in this posting are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of DigitalGlobe.