Q. How are NICB and Vexcel cooperating in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria?
A. In partnership with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC), Vexcel Imaging is leading a coalition of top geospatial firms to make available through a web-based geospatial application, high-resolution aerial imagery of critical areas of southern Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands impacted by these events. The coalition’s efforts are in response to flooding and damage caused the hurricanes, torrential rains, flooding and destructive winds.
Q. How will the imagery be used?
The coalition’s efforts will assist first responders, humanitarian organizations, federal and state agencies, and insurers by providing them with high-resolution imagery that will provide actionable insight into the situation on the ground.
Q. What is the NICB GIC?
A. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is a law enforcement support organization representing 1,200-member insurance companies. For the last 115 years, the Crime Bureau has worked between law enforcement and the insurance industry to investigate insurance fraud. Its Geospatial Intelligence Center serves the entirety of the insurance industry with geospatial support and data collected annually as well as first responders in disaster situations.
Q. Who is Vexcel Imaging?
A. Based in Centennial, CO, Vexcel Imaging Inc. is a leading provider of geospatial data and services and mapping products. At the core of the business is the industry-leading line of UltraCam digital aerial and terrestrial camera systems widely adopted by aerial mapping firms worldwide and underpinning the Vexcel data program. The UltraCam portfolio provides a range of imaging systems including photogrammetric nadir camera systems, combined nadir and oblique image capture systems, and high-altitude wide-area mapping systems. For terrestrial collection, the car-based mobile mapping system UltraCam Mustang captures a street-level perspective, and the UltraCam Panther collects high-resolution imagery, video and LiDAR via a portable 3D reality mapping system. These systems, coupled with the UltraMap workflow software, offer geospatial data organizations and geospatial data users with highly accurate but cost-effective nadir, oblique and streetside data.
Q. What geospatial companies are a part of the coalition?
The coalition consists of Vexcel Imaging, provider of UltraCam-branded high-end digital aerial and terrestrial sensors and software, managing the details of the response and leading the efforts of three of the nation’s largest and most advanced aerial mapping companies—Sanborn Map Company, Quantum Spatial, Keystone Aerial Surveys and GPI Geospatial—whose aircraft are equipped with UltraCam vertical and oblique aerial sensors to ensure the highest quality and most accurate imagery possible.
Q. How is the imagery being collected and processed?
Vexcel and the aerial mapping companies have coordinated the collection of dozens of AOI (areas of interest), and gotten priority access to fly these areas as weather conditions have allowed. Following collection, the aerial mapping firms are rapidly processing the large volumes of collected data using Vexcel’s UltraMap workflow software to produce and upload the geo-referenced imagery the following day after collection. Vexcel has been working closely with the coalition to identify key areas where imagery is most needed, distinguishing between the benefits of vertical and oblique imagery for given areas, and has established a website to provide up to date status on the collection and availability of the imagery and datasets, as it is unfolding. An additional and key member of the coalition is the global leader of GIS software, ESRI, who is providing a custom, web-based ArcGIS application to view the imagery through a web browser on any desktop PC, tablet or mobile device.
Q. What does the web application provide users?
The web application will allow for searching on address or POI, taking accurate measurements, viewing side-by-side imagery (before/after), and viewing oblique along with corresponding ortho imagery. The web app also enables viewing additional information (public and private) layered on top of the imagery.
Q. Who can access the imagery using the application?
High-priority users are the Red Cross, FEMA, all Federal/state/local resources, major NGOs, community organizations and insurers. Meanwhile, public and non-priority users will have access to the GIC open-access web site.
Q. What does the GIC web site provide?
The GIC web portal provides up to date situational awareness that includes an interactive coverage map indicating areas that have been captured and breaking news. Information on the GIC and the coalition is also included. High priority users will be provided a username/password for access to a dedicated server.
Q. What is the difference between vertical and oblique imagery?
Vertical imagery, otherwise known as nadir, captures scenes from a straight down perspective allowing a flat “rooftop” view of a location. Oblique imagery captures scenes from a 45-degree view, allowing you to see building facades and entrances. This data is being collected at high resolutions of 3” for oblique and 3-6” for vertical.
Q. What is the extent of coverage for both oblique and vertical collections?
In response to Hurricane Harvey, the NICB coalition collected ultra-high resolution oblique/3D imagery and vertical imagery over towns that were near the hurricane’s path using Vexcel’s UltraCam Osprey. At the same time, vertical imagery was captured over 3,000 square miles of Greater Houston and the surrounding counties using Vexcel’s UltraCam Eagle.
In response to Hurricane Irma, the coalition is targeting 506 square miles aggregate of high value in the hurricane’s path using the UltraCam Osprey. This includes Greater Miami and coast through Ft Lauderdale and the Florida Keys. Additionally, 13,787 square miles of high-resolution vertical imagery will be collected using the UltraCam Eagle. This coverage includes Southeast Florida from the Keys up to Vero Beach, Southwest Florida from Naples to Bradenton, 4 large blocks centered around greater Tampa area and Great Orlando area, as well as Central Florida covering 12 counties.
For Hurricane Maria, a 1,257 mile strip along the northern coast of Puerto Rico–roughly 60% of the island–is targeted for 6″ nadir collection using the UltraCam Eagle along with a 308 square mile area over the US Virgin Islands (St.Thomas/St. Croix).
For all collections, imagery is available the evening after collection.
Q. How often is new Imagery added?
Given that the imagery is being collected and processed by multiple aerial mapping companies, it is being uploaded to the cloud on a 24/7 basis. ESRI’s imagery service and the web app will be updating this imagery with new coverage approximately twice per day.
Q. Will there be other ways to access the data or only thru the web app?
Yes, there will be a RESTful API that provides an interface to bring the data into other applications for specific workflows or integration with other data layers. There will also be a redundant web application hosted by Sanborn on a separate stack to ensure reliability.