Thursday, June 20, 2013

A View From Above: Blimp Imagery for Disasters

Today's post is about technology that has come full circle. The first aerial images of landscapes were taken from hot air balloons. Now, after nearly a century of using airplanes to do the job, serious efforts are underway to develop lighter-than-air platforms that will once again offer views from above.  However, this time the lens will be focused on disasters. 

Find below two related links: 

  1. Click the link immediately below the image to view a full screen view of an example site - then use your mouse to pull the scenery through 360 degrees.  
  2. The second link is to details of the story.

APDER Example View

Quick and in 3D: High-resolution Aerial Photos for Disaster Response and Recovery
(Sensors and Systems, May 28, 2013)

Comment: Although I've covered this topic before, huge kudos to Aerial Photography in Disasters Emergencies and Recovery (APDER) for rolling up their sleeves and actually turning a concept into reality. One word of caution though. Conquering technical hurdles to make something like this a reality and conquering administrative hurdles are two entirely different things. Example: It's hard to believe, but one of the greatest challenges the response community faced during Katrina was the shear randomness of aerial SAR efforts. Some sectors were searched multiple times, others not at all. Why? No one was in "tactical" charge of the airspace. While that may sound funny on its face, it's the reality of wholesale collapse of government. The FAA will set boundaries that define an operating area for a disaster response and limit who can operate in that airspace, BUT they do not have a tactical control function ("search sector X") when it comes to tasking and routing of traffic inside that area. As circumstances dictate, various other entities will be responsible for that function.  Consequently, while putting up an observation balloon may be relatively easy from the technical standpoint, the hoop jumping required to  "legally" be there and appropriately incorporated into the official air plan may be much more complicated. For details on this issue, go here: FAA Airspace Management Plan for Disasters.  

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