NOAA Uses Rapid Response DSS System
NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is a U.S. federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere. NOAA is also currently engaged in a cross-cutting program to build and sustain an ability to respond ...

The Client
NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is a U.S. federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere.  NOAA is also currently engaged in a cross-cutting program to build and sustain an ability to respond effectively to emergency events. This includes acquiring remotely sensed data to support the agency’s homeland security and emergency response mandates.  Data is collected and disseminated to facilitate support efforts such as:

  • Assisting Search and Rescue efforts
  • Identifying Hazards to Navigation & HAZMAT spills
  • Providing emergency & coastal zone managers the information needed to develop recovery strategies and make sound decisions
  • Locating errant vessels
  • Damage assessment through comparison of before and after imagery

The Challenge

In response to Hurricane Ike, NOAA needed to obtain high quality post-storm aerial imagery in order to help coordinate and manage relief efforts.   Accurate, georeferenced images for damage assessment purposes needed to be collected, processed, and then quickly provided to relief and emergency management agencies including FEMA, The Department of Homeland Security, and the Red Cross, as well as to the public seeking to see the damage to their own individual properties.

The Solution:

NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey collected post storm imagery in conjunction with NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) in response to Hurricane Ike using both the Trimble 439 Digital Sensor System (DSS) and an Trimble 439 Dual Cam DSS.  These systems were flown aboard the NOAA Citation Jet (N52RF) and NOAA Jet-Prop Commander (N45RF) respectively.   The DualCam DSS consists of two camera heads; one that collects data in the RGB color domain and one that uses a custom near-infrared filter to block wavelengths below 850 nm.

To ensure that all the appropriate and required imagery was acquired during this mission, pre-mission consultations were held with traditional users of this data including NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, Office of Response and Restoration, the Department of Defense/NORTHCOM, The National Guard Bureau, U.S. Army Corps, DHS, FEMA, U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Texas, Harris County, and the Red Cross.  These discussions identified the mission requirements and determined the flight plan.

The Results:

Using both aircraft, approximately 1,620 square miles of the affected area was imaged from September 14–17.  Flights were made during daylight hours and data processing was done through the night.  In all NOAA collected over 5,500 color aerial images of the hardest hit areas in Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Ike made landfall. These images, made available to emergency personnel and the public on the NOAA/NGS web site within 24 hours of acquisition (, were geo-referenced from post processed POS AV GPS- Aided Inertial Navigation Solution parameters, and ortho-rectified using Trimble’s RapidOrtho™ software.  This allowed emergency response personnel to combine multiple datasets with the post storm imagery. To date (September 25 2008) there have been over 16 million website hits and over 3.6 terabytes of data downloaded.

Additionally image mosaics were created.  These mosaics were ingested into Google Earth as a means to quickly display the mosaic footprints and allow for data retrieval. For advanced users, several commercial vendors incorporated the aerial imagery into web-based map servers, allowing for searches based on street addresses, city names, and points of interest.  

An additional collection of a flooding event caused by Hurricane Ike near Peoria, IL was also collected per a request by NOAA’s National Weather Service with over 160 images being collected and processed.

All of this was accomplished with a total of 8 field and 4 office personnel.

“Our work over many years now with Applanix is a great example of a public and private partnership coming together to help citizens of this country and others.  We now have a long standing relationship with Applanix and their technology, and a successful track record as well of using and developing this technology for our day to day operations and for emergency requirements, such as with Hurricane Ike.”  Said Michael L. Aslaksen Jr., Chief, Remote Sensing Division, NOAA's National Geodetic Survey

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