|Rescue effort supervision||- Rescue Effort|
Rescue efforts can better be managed through the additional useof real time (ie. immediate) aerial imagery. From Japanese rail crash.jpg.
Remains of Air France flight 358 near Toronto Pearson Airport on 3 Aug 05. From www.wikipedia.org.
View from the air of a road accident. From www.steveporter.com.
DATE: 03 AUG 07SOURCE: Flight International
The charity, which specialises in rapid production of geographic information system data for relief operations, now uses a combination of satellite imagery and in situ GPS measurement mapping techniques. David Spackman, MapAction director, says that the charity has been studying the UAV option as a means of providing rapid situational awareness in large-scale crisis operations.
"What we are trying to do is help the decision makers at the scene provide a common operational picture. We use technology routinely We use all the means that we can and I see UAVs as certainly having a splendid part to play in this process of providing information to the co-ordinators and decision makers and the relief workers."
The type of UAV capability sought by MapAction would typically be small tactical-class systems with an endurance of several hours. " We need a rapid response and we want you to be able to give us that digital information very quickly. Those are the key bits of information because everything you do is digital and we operate on digital maps with geographic information systems. There is a marriage made in heaven here."
An initial way forward, says Spackman, might be a collaborative demonstration. The charity is not in a position to be able to either acquire or lease services, but believes considerable benefits would flow to volunteering manufacturers in terms of international market exposure
MapAction was established just over three years ago. It supports rapid response teams that are deployed for short periods into a crisis area to produce situational awareness data for government authorities and aid organisations. " We are a strategic asset. We plug into the central co-ordinating authority at the scene. That could be the government, it could be the United Nations . It could be a combination of the two depending on the political realities of the countries that we go to."
Disaster situations administer a "psychological shock in the country concerned" , Spackman says, regardless of its development status. " It takes time for information to start flowing. They key thing to try and do is provide the information that is required. Now lots of different types of information is required, but there are three key bits that are required right at the start. The first one is everybody wants to know what is the extent of the disaster. This is a geographical question and it is best answered on a map.
"What you are trying to do is to find out as quickly as you can what the extent of the disaster is so that you can send assessors out to actually find out what the real situation is on the ground. The best way to do this is by air, because you can get an overview very quickly."
MapAction has used manned aircraft to support this element of its work in past relief operations. But in most disaster situations " aircraft are in short supply, whether helicopters or light aircraft. There are a million things they want to do. The president wants to get out and see the area. Medical teams have to go out. Not only that, aircraft need an infrastructure to operate, and in a devastated zone some of these locations can be destroyed, airfields can be destroyed. So it is not easy to find out what the extent of the disaster is. Even satellite imagery, if you haven't got the satellites in position or the receiving stations in place, it can take time."
"Once the scale of the affected area has been defined, the second key challenge is locating survivors. " It is important that everybody has an idea of where to go, so it is not just the extent, it is actually where are the victims? In an earthquake it is pretty much a devastated zone, and people then start flocking away, particularly when the aftershocks start coming in. They start fleeing in numbers and start congregating in places where they think they are safe, and it takes time to try and find out this information.
"Obviously UAVs have a wonderful part to play here. We can just send them out searching, doing a simple grid search of an area. As you get aftershocks or as the floods continue and the rainfall gets heavy, people start moving so you have to constantly go out and check where they are. UAVs can not only be used by us strategically, but they can then be put down in what are called the humanitarian hubs and start operating in a more local area." The UK-based MapAction charity is asking international unmanned air vehicle manufacturers to volunteer systems to support emergency response missions in the developing world.