New strategy brings UNOSAT rapid mapping for emergency response close to real-time

27 September 2011, Geneva, Switzerland – Only one month into its new Data-in-hand strategy, UNOSAT production has reached unprecedented timeliness approaching real-time analysis in the areas of humanitarian rapid mapping.

While following the current devastating floods in Pakistan, UNOSAT put into action its enhanced protocol for rapid access to very high resolution optical imagery from commercial sensors, which includes the new FirstLook service, purchased by UNITAR from US based company DigitalGlobe. This protocol, part of the new Data-in-hand strategy, combines faster access and downloading measures with enhanced analysis procedures and faster quality control methods to arrive more rapidly to information products that still maintain the typical high quality standards for which UNOSAT is renowned.

In the case of Pakistan floods, this meant that satellite imagery recorded on 27 September over the affected area of downtown of Mirpur Khas, Sindh, was analysed and disseminated the very same day to humanitarian and national users implementing emergency response in the country.

The preliminary analysis indicates that the city of Mirpur Khas has been severely affected by standing flood waters concentrated in the central and western suburbs of the city. The UNOSAT map shows actionable information regarding strategic locations for emergency response and also an emergency IDP camp established for displaced residents, located in Gama stadium containing at present around 85 tents shelters.

While UNOSAT has consistently met high standards in very short delivery timelines, the new Data-in-hand strategy is an attempt to routinely approach actual near-real-time analysis. Francesco Pisano, Manager of UNOSAT, says “this level of responsiveness is not new at UNOSAT. What is new is our strategy to make this a standard feature. We keep looking downstream at user requirements in the field and we equip ourselves with what it takes to do better each time in responding to these”. In commenting on the attempts being done in some quarters of the GIS and space communities to standardize emergency mapping products and protocols, Pisano added “as far as we can see based on over 10 years of experience there are no standard emergencies, so standard maps cannot apply to all emergency situations, especially in a humanitarian context”.