Constructive Convergence: Imagery and Humanitarian Assistance   [open pdf - 9MB]

"Imagery assessment is a vital tool used by humanitarian responders when disaster strikes. Whether derived from satellite, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or ground views, imagery offers event confirmation and impact, an early assessment, and a foundation on which to initiate response planning. The goal of this paper is to illustrate to the technical community and interested humanitarian users the breadth of the tools and techniques now available for imagery collection, analysis, and distribution, and to provide brief recommendations with suggestions for next steps. Over the past decade, the humanitarian community has found growing access to imagery to be of value and organizational policies are changing to reflect that importance. [...] Innovative technology, like imagery and the information derived from it, has long been a hallmark of human evolution--but using it wisely has been a challenge. There are questions of law, policy, and ethics that quickly arise around the use of imagery in disasters. In addition to the legal and ethical issues, humanitarian assistance requires teamwork and collaboration. Responders using imagery must overcome interoperability challenges, develop technical standards, create governance structures, and protect both personal privacy and intellectual property. In some cases, those posting or using imagery in the field may be at physical risk. Knowing those needs, a growing number of volunteer technical groups have an opportunity to design tools that reflect current technical capabilities while addressing the full spectrum of requirements. We can now include imagery contributions from an affected population to a degree never before possible, which raises further opportunities for the design of new tools and processes.

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