by Dr. Ray Williamson, Executive Director - Secure World Foundation
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 14, 2010 The influence of Earth remote sensing satellites in disaster management can be greatly enhanced over the next decade, becoming a far more powerful tool than today to help mitigate the effects of natural and human-made calamities.
A future look into the unrealized potential of remotely sensed data for pre-, during, and post-disaster scenarios was detailed by Dr. Ray Williamson, Executive Director of Secure World Foundation during a Disasters Roundtable, held July 8 by The National Academies in Washington, D.C.
The roundtable - From Reality 2010 to Vision 2020: Translating Remotely Sensed Data to Assets, Exposure, Damage, and Losses - brought together leading experts from academia, the government and private sector to focus on needed improvements in disaster response and recovery.
In his keynote address, Williamson outlined both positive trends and potential impediments regarding use of spaceborne systems and other technologies.
Response and recovery
Williamson also noted that satellite telecommunications can be used more effectively to deliver information to response and recovery teams throughout the recuperation process.
"There are many possible improvements in disaster response and recovery on the horizon," Williamson said. "Response and recovery teams could soon use the latest in smart phones and other related devices to deliver information back to coordinating organizations," he added, to assure safety of life of first responders and to serve afflicted populations.
This is an example of what is becoming known as community remote sensing, or cloud computing.
Empowered by technology
"It is also a world where local environmental groups concerned about degradation of local waterways are empowered by technology and their own ingenuity to collect on-the-spot data on water quality and changing shorelines and incorporate them into regional information collected from space platforms," Williamson said.
"However, too often the benefits of geospatial data and tools do not reach broadly enough, especially in developing countries," Williamson said. "Failures often stem from uncoordinated policies at different levels of government, as well as restrictive data policies. Progress will require a lot more attention to removing these institutional and social impediments that now exist in using remote sensing for human benefit."
To help counter these issues, more scientific and technical education and training is needed. "Most important, citizens need to become involved in their own future by using tools developed for them and also by them," Williamson advised.
"My wider vision is a world where individuals and community groups have routine access to satellite and aerial data and use community remote sensing methods to improve their own quality of life," Williamson concluded.
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