Remotely Sensed Imagery for Disasters

Rapid Exploitation of Commercial Remotely Sensed Imagery for Disaster Response & Recovery


Principal Investigator: Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne
Funding Agency: USDOT

Project Summary

Natural disasters can severely impact transportation networks. In the hours and days following a major flooding event, knowing the location and extent of the damage is crucial for incident managers for a number of reasons: it allows for emergency vehicle access to affected areas; it facilitates the efficient rerouting of traffic; it raises the quality and reduces the cost of repairs; and it allows repairs to be completed faster, in turn reducing the duration of costly detours. Commercial Remote Sensing (CRS) imagery is increasingly being used in disaster response and recovery, but acquiring imagery is far easier than extracting actionable information from it. An automated approach to damage assessment is needed, but traditional automated image analysis techniques are inadequate for identifying or characterizing road and bridge damage from high resolution imagery. We propose a project with two objectives: 1) to develop, calibrate and deploy a decision support system capable of identifying road and bridge damage from high-resolution commercial satellite images and; 2) to estimate the amount and type of fill material required for repairs using digital surface models derived from lightweight Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) programmed to fly over damage road segments. This approach would employ state-of-the-art, object-based image analysis techniques, cost-based image matching, and other advanced computing techniques. We also propose to collaborate with state departments of transportation to develop a web-based interface to share information derived from the CRS imagery.

Pre post imagery damage

Figure 1A. Image of Vermont roads pre-Irene. Figure 1B. Image of Vermont roads post-Irene (copyright DigitialGlobe)

News and Updates

NEW! 2015 TRB Annual Meeting Presentation
Blog post 1 – Letters from the SAL – Sensefly eBee Training

Blog post 2 – Letters from the SAL – Rapid 3D Mapping for Transportation Decision Support
Webinar Presentation to the Vermont Center for Geographic Information

Project Team

Caesar Singh, Program Manager (PM), US DOT 
Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Faculty Research Associate and Director of the UVM Spatial Analysis Laboratory (SAL) – Principal Investigator 
Austin Troy, PhD, Director of the University of Vermont (UVM) Transportation Research Center (TRC) 
Jacob Leopold, Administrative Professional at UVM TRC
James Sullivan, Research Analyst at UVM TRC 
Sean MacFaden, Research Specialist at UVM SAL 
Ernest Buford, Research Specialist at UVM SAL
Zachary Borst, Outreach Professional at TRC

Technical Advisory Committee

Guy Rouelle, Aviation Program Administrator, Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) 
Stephanie Magnan, Asset Management Specialist, VTrans 
Wayne Gammell, Maintenance Administrator, VTrans 
Johnathan Croft, GIS Database Administrator, VTrans 
Michele Boomhower, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) Assistant/Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Director 
Christopher Jolly, Planning & Programming Engineer, Federal Highway Association (FHWA) – Vermont Division 
Roger Thompson, ITS/Safety Engineer, FHWA – Vermont Division 
Charles Hebson, Manager of Surface Water Resources, Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) 
Staci Pomeroy, River Scientist, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation 

Project Documents

Technical Proposal 
Quarterly Report Guidelines 
Task List 

Project Links

Video: Obtaining Data from the USGS Hazard Data Distribution System (HDDS) 
White Paper on Commercial Remotely Sensed (CRS) Data 
White Paper on Lessons Learned on Flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Vermont 
“Emerging Technologies Help State DOTs Meet the Growing Challenge of Extreme Weather”, reprinted with permission from AASHTO Climate Change Briefing, 10/1/13 
2014 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting Presentation: Sensing Technologies for Transportation Applications
2014 GIS-T Conference in Burlington Vermont: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for Disaster Response and Recovery
The OST Office of Research and Technology (OST-R) presents “Unmanned Aerial Systems for Disaster Response and Recovery” webcast

Quarterly Reports

December 2012 through March 2013 
April 2013 through June 2013 
July 2013 through September 2013
October 2013 through December 2013
January 2014 through March 2014
April 2014 through June 2014
July 2014 through September 2014
October 2014 through December 2014
January 2015 through March 2015
December 2012 through May 2015


Technical Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

March 19, 2013 Meeting 
March 19, 2013 Meeting (Recording)
December 06, 2013 Meeting
December 06, 2013 Meeting (Recording)
June 12, 2015 Meeting

Password Protected Documents

None at this time. 

“The views and opinions expressed herein are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Commercial Remote Sensing & Spatial Information Technologies Program, the U.S. Department of Transportation, or any of its Operating Administrations.”

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