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DigitalGlobe Working Overtime to Meet Crisis Event Imagery Demand

By | June 7, 2010
      [Satellite News 06-07-10] DigitalGlobe Vice President of U.S. Defense Sales Steve Wood recently secured a one-year Crisis Event Service (CES) imagery agreement with the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which was driven by an unusually high number of natural disasters and major world events in the past 12 months.
          “Since we launched the service in July 2009, there have been 60 notable crisis events that have occurred, with 33 alone this year,” said Wood. “While the frequency of these events have increased, our ability to monitor these events has also dramatically increased. The government, military and private sectors’ confidence in commercial imagery sector to quickly deliver information during major events and crisis has also grown.”
          The NGA will use CES’ pre- and post-event satellite imagery to aid in emergency planning, response and recovery. The agency acts as the U.S. government’s focal point for handling commercial imagery from satellite data to serve government clients including the military, its foreign government allies and civil agencies. Military and civil imagery customers also share the same key demand – the need for a baseline image and a record of what once was. “If you have that base map to begin with, you’re able to rapidly follow up after that event occurs and see what the change has been. The military, oil and gas and other sectors are looking for that core application. They want to know what happened before and what is happening now and they want to know fast,” said Wood.
          DigitalGlobe recently deployed the CES imagery program for use in the aftermath of January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti and during the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. DigitalGlobe has used almost all of its constellation’s assets on the crisis. “We’ve been imaging a quarter of a million square kilometers of imagery since the oil spill occurred. The spectral capabilities and eight bands of data from WorldView-2 have been instrumental in managing the spill as the oil gets closer to the land. We can also monitor the effects of the spill, such as vegetation stress, from the near-infrared band on QuickBird satellite.”
          DigitalGlobe’s monitoring of California’s wild fires highlights some of the technology that both civil and military customers have come to rely on. The operator’s QuickBird satellite is equipped with four color bands: red, blue, green and near-infrared, in addition to a panchromatic band. These color bands provide a wealth of additional information about a landscape, from vegetation and forestry or crop health. “The near-infrared band, in particular is the one that is key to vegetation stress. In California, we’ve been using the multi-spectral band to track the development and full extent of wild fires for the past couple of years. You can clearly see the fire line, because there is a visible change between healthy and dead trees. We use the thing for the oil spill, and it has been cheaper for the government to use satellites rather than airplanes because of the size of the area and the amount of data we collect in one passing,” said Wood. 
          The program’s civil applications and technology are nearly identical to military applications, according to Wood. “DigitalGlobe operates under the premise that we use the same basic application and capability to serve multiple customers. A good example of how civil uses carry over into the military arena is the recent floods in Nashville. We’re providing the imagery through CES to the government and to other customers just to give them a sense of what is on the ground and what areas were hit the hardest. The imagery is crucial for rapid assessment and helps the customer determine where to send supplies and set up a base camp. The U.S. government is doing the same thing for Afghanistan military operation and humanitarian efforts like the Red Cross do the same with volunteers and medical supplies.”
          Another bond that ties the military customer with its commercial imagery providers is the history of the people who work at companies like DigitalGlobe to deliver the satellite data product. “Our relationship with our government and military customers is rapidly expanding and picking up pace. We look at ourselves as their mission partners. Most of us here at DigitalGlobe have worked in the government before, myself included. Most of us are passionate about helping the government and we understand what their needs are.”
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