Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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October 12, 2011
Emergency Relief, Humanitarian Efforts Require Accurate, Real-Time Satellite Imagery

To support humanitarian relief and human security activities around the world, DigitalGlobe has formed an alliance with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT). Using FirstLook, a DigitalGlobe crisis team that supports UNOSAT’s efforts by continuously monitoring activities with sources such as the Global Disaster and Coordination System (GDACS)  and the International Space Charter, UNOSAT aims to use satellite imagery for relief efforts, security, and strategic territorial and development planning within and outside of the United Nations system. Once the internal DigitalGlobe analysis team identifies an event of interest, satellites are immediately tasked to collect imagery over the appropriate sites and provide online and downloadable access to UNOSAT experts as quickly as possible.

The DigitalGlobe Analysis Center employs an internal crisis team that continuously monitors world events and initiates priority tasking for natural disasters, man-made crises, political unrest and human-interest events.

Crisis-Based and Security-Oriented Imagery

FirstLook is an online subscription service for emergency management that provides fast, Web-based access to pre- and post-event imagery of world disasters delivered to almost any desktop or Web-based mapping platform. High-resolution satellite imagery provides the essential information required for emergency planning, risk assessment, monitoring of staging areas and emergency response, damage assessment and recovery. Once an event has been identified, DigitalGlobe establishes high-priority collection sites over the event. Post-event imagery of affected areas is acquired as soon as access allows, typically within 24 hours to 48 hours. The current imagery is available online within 12 hours after the imagery is collected.

UNOSAT has been able to use FirstLook to proactively monitor several events, including those in Somalia. Due to extended drought, Somalia and other nations in the Horn of Africa face a severe food crisis. As a result, Somali residents have taken refuge in nearby Ethiopia and Kenya. UNOSAT has acquired DigitalGlobe satellite imagery to assess the situation across Somali border towns and plan emergency humanitarian efforts based on the findings. UNOSAT began using satellite imagery for similar humanitarian uses in 2001; however, access to imagery was slow and uncertain, making relief difficult and unsafe.

A More Informed Response

After a trial with FirstLook, UNOSAT began using the program regularly in 2011. “DigitalGlobe’s constellation can quickly collect large areas on Earth and has the flexibility to revisit critical areas on the same day,”  says UNOSAT Manager Francesco Pisano. “Now that  UNOSAT will access the imagery online via the FirstLook subscription service, we will have the most consistent, efficient and reliable means to receive crisis-based and human security-oriented imagery.”
For more information, visit DigitalGlobe at

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