Rim Elijah on harnessing space tech for natural disaster recovery
  • Remote sensing

Harnessing Space Tech For Natural Disaster Recovery

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods continue to wreak havoc on communities worldwide, posing a significant challenge in assessing damage and providing timely relief efforts. In the wake of such events, accurate and prompt damage assessment tools are crucial to ensure the efficient allocation of resources and the facilitation of recovery processes. With the growing availability of cutting-edge satellite technologies and artificial intelligence, it is imperative to leverage these innovations and improve disaster response to build more resilient communities.

In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Rim Elijah, VP of Sales at EOS Data Analytics, to discuss the transformative potential of these technologies in assessing damage following natural disasters.

In Today’s World, Could You Elaborate On The Significance Of Satellite Data In Evaluating The Extent Of Damage Resulting From Natural Disasters?

Certainly, satellite data has become an indispensable tool in assessing the damage caused by natural disasters in recent years. Its ability to provide timely, high-resolution imagery of affected areas is invaluable in understanding the scale and impact of disasters on both infrastructure and human populations. By leveraging satellite data, we can overcome the limitations of traditional methods, such as ground-based assessments, which are often time-consuming, expensive, and potentially hazardous for those involved.

For example, during the devastating Hurricane Harvey in 2017 , satellite imagery was instrumental in assessing the damage to critical infrastructure and identifying areas in need of immediate assistance. Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake , satellite data was used to rapidly evaluate the extent of damage to buildings and infrastructure and potential landslide risks in remote regions. These instances demonstrate the importance of satellite data in facilitating prompt, well-informed decisions during disaster response efforts.

As the frequency and severity of natural disasters continue to escalate due to climate change, the role of satellite data in damage assessment will only become more vital. By harnessing the power of satellite data analytics, we can better prioritize relief efforts, allocate resources effectively, save lives and ultimately reduce the economic impacts of these catastrophic events.

How Do Modern Technologies, Such As Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning, Influence The Process Of Damage Assessment Following Natural Disasters?

Their integration has significantly transformed the way we approach damage assessment after natural disasters. These advanced technologies allow for the rapid processing and analysis of vast amounts of data, such as satellite imagery, IoT sensor data, and social media inputs, resulting in more accurate and timely damage assessments. By employing AI and ML algorithms, we can identify patterns, assess damage severity, and derive crucial insights that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain through manual methods.

To illustrate, after the California wildfires in 2018, artificial intelligence and machine learning were employed to analyze real-time data and predict the spread of the fires, ultimately assisting in the coordination of firefighting and evacuation efforts . Such examples underscore the immense potential of these technologies to revolutionize damage assessment, improve disaster response, and ultimately save lives and resources in the face of natural disasters.

How EOS Data Analytics Can Be Helpful In Damage Assessment?

While we haven’t yet developed an out-of-the-box solution for natural disasters, we have the scientific expertise and satellite data analytics to build any product in this domain. For example, in 2022 we researched change and flood detection in Northern Kazakhstan, and we have multiple environmental case studies published on our blog studying various changes in nature.

We are open to discussions with institutions, NGOs, and governmental entities to explore the development of new products for disaster recovery. By partnering with scientific institutions, we can develop new models and participate in tenders to prevent natural disasters or at least lessen their impact.

For example, we could work on projects like fire or flood detection and analyze the impact of disasters like earthquakes in Turkey. By collaborating with local institutions and universities, which often have access to ground truth data, we can combine our satellite tech expertise to paint a comprehensive picture of the situation before and after a disaster and analyze its effects on various sectors, including agriculture and trade. Our goal is to provide granular insights on field-level data, rather than just offering before-and-after satellite imagery, to help understand the impact on specific crops or how a disaster affects import and export dynamics.

How Do Businesses Generally Collaborate With Existing Government And NGO Disaster Response Systems?

The integration of cutting-edge technologies and platforms with existing disaster response systems can lead to more efficient damage assessment, resource allocation, and overall disaster management. Public-private partnerships enable the pooling of resources, expertise, and innovative solutions, which ultimately contribute to more effective and timely responses in the face of natural disasters.

A notable example of such collaboration that immediately comes to my mind is the partnership between satellite data providers, such as DigitalGlobe and GeoEye, and the United Nations following the 2010 Haiti earthquake . This cooperation facilitated rapid damage assessment and the identification of internally displaced persons, enabling more targeted and effective relief efforts. Furthermore, the satellite imagery was also made available to the public, engaging the global community in mapping initiatives to support rescue and recovery efforts, such as the collaborative OpenStreetMap project. These instances highlight the immense value of public-private partnerships in improving disaster response and recovery efforts.

Still, despite the increasing number of public-private collaborations leveraging satellite data analytics for disaster response, there remains a considerable gap in our ability to effectively address the full spectrum of natural disasters. Each type of disaster demands a tailored approach, and the growing scale and frequency of these events underscore the urgency for further advancements in this field.

For instance, in 2022, major weather disasters in the US  alone resulted in over $21 billion in crop losses. Assessing crop losses and determining the appropriate response necessitates the use of a combination of historical and current data on various vegetation indices. Such analytics are collected and provided by only a handful of companies worldwide. By harnessing this valuable information, we can better understand the impacts of these disasters on agriculture and the environment, ultimately informing more effective and targeted recovery efforts.

Does EOS Data Analytics Actively Seek Partnerships With Institutions and Universities Studying Natural Disasters and Their Consequences?

While we don’t have specific plans to proactively reach out to institutions and universities, we’ve observed a trend of them approaching us for our expertise. They are forming consortia to apply for opportunities provided by Horizon Europe and seeking our input.

As for us actively reaching out to them, we do engage in limited partnership-seeking activities. For example, we had two of our scientists attending the EGU General Assembly 2023 to present the results of the GoldenEye project. We reviewed the list of participants and exhibitors, which mostly consists of scientific institutions and universities, to identify potential partners for establishing consortia and participating in tenders.

This approach helps us maintain an open and flexible stance towards partnerships while focusing on our core expertise.

What New Possibilities Can Providers Of Satellite Data Analytics Unlock For Damage Assessment And Disaster Response Systems In The Future?

In the near future, the most obvious developments in satellite technology for natural disaster response will involve refining AI and ML algorithms for more efficient large-scale data analysis, integrating additional data sources like drones and IoT devices to offer more comprehensive insights, and improving satellite technology itself for higher-resolution imagery and more frequent data collection. These advancements will lead to more accurate damage assessments and enhanced coordination of relief efforts.

However, in my opinion, the future of satellite technology holds the greatest potential for building early warning systems for various natural disasters. While we cannot prevent these disasters as they are a part of nature, we can aim to decrease their impact through advanced alert systems. Current satellites have limitations in terms of monitoring frequency and predictive capabilities, but I believe that in the next 10 years or so, we’ll see significant advancements in satellite technology that will enable us to build alert systems using specific sets of satellites and bands.

Also, using satellite data, we can potentially develop AI systems that provide information on disaster probabilities, the potential impact on agriculture or other sectors, and economic losses.

Collaboration between companies like ours, local governments, institutions, and universities is key to exploring the full potential of satellite technology. By bringing all these stakeholders together, we can build innovative projects and develop early warning systems for natural disasters. We are still in the early stages of understanding the importance of satellite technology, but with the right partnerships and investments, we can do much more to save lives, protect livelihoods, and mitigate the negative impacts of natural disasters.

What Distinguishes Your Products And Services From Other Providers Of Satellite Data Analytics In Assessing Damage In Areas Affected By Natural Disasters?

One key differentiator that sets EOS Data Analytics apart from other satellite data analytics providers is our commitment to utilizing multiple data sources to deliver comprehensive and accurate damage assessments. We leverage data from renowned sources such as Sentinels and Landsats, and we are currently in the process of expanding our capabilities with our own EOS SAT constellation. This innovative satellite system will capture images of Earth across 13 spectral bands and cover over 10,000,000 km² daily, further enhancing the precision and timeliness of our assessments.

Another unique aspect of our offerings is the breadth of our product portfolio, which includes both out-of-the-box products and custom solutions. Our EOSDA LandViewer platform enables users to compare ordinary satellite imagery side by side, while specialized tools like EOSDA Crop Monitoring and EOSDA Forest Monitoring platforms provide more detailed insights into soil moisture, vegetation status (and thus possible yield losses), fire impacts, and deforestation. These capabilities prove invaluable in the context of natural disasters, particularly when assessing rural areas or monitoring environmental consequences.

Furthermore, we develop custom solutions tailored to address sophisticated challenges in damage assessment. By incorporating state-of-the-art technologies such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery, big data processing systems, and cutting-edge proprietary algorithms, we can provide our clients with unparalleled accuracy and actionable insights.

Finally, How Do You See The Future Of AI-Powered Satellite Data Analytics In The Context Of Climate Change And The Growing Frequency And Severity Of Natural Disasters? How Is EOS Data Analytics Going To Contribute To Building More Resilient Communities?

The future of AI-powered satellite data analytics is closely intertwined with our collective ability to address the challenges posed by climate change and the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters. As a company, our vision is to make space technology a global driver of sustainability on Earth, and we are committed to bringing the benefits of space to our planet keeping in mind the goals of the United Nations. Currently, our products and services align with 10 out of the 17 UN SDGs, and we use these goals as guidelines for developing new solutions or refining existing ones to create a positive environmental impact.

By incorporating AI and satellite data analytics into disaster management, we can help communities become more resilient to the impacts of natural disasters and contribute to long-term environmental sustainability at the same time. This proactive approach not only safeguards communities from the immediate effects of climate change but also fosters a more sustainable relationship with our planet. As we continue to innovate and expand our offerings, we aim to play a pivotal role in shaping a more resilient and sustainable future for all.

That’s why I invite organizations involved in disaster response and recovery to explore the potential of a fruitful partnership with us. Together, we can harness the power of space technology to drive positive change on Earth, save lives, and build a more resilient and sustainable future for those affected by natural disasters. This is our chance to transform the way we respond to and mitigate the impacts of these devastating events, creating a safer world for generations to come.

About the author:

Rim Elijah VP of Sales at EOS Data Analytics

Rim Elijah joined EOSDA in early 2020. She holds a double degree in business administration and political science from Stockholm University.

Rim is VP of Sales at EOSDA. She is overseeing all aspects of business model development and implementation, maintenance of positive business & customer experience, and the growth of the company’s global coverage. She is responsible for closing deals, scaling up ongoing projects, as well as the development and implementation of process control within the Sales department. Rim also regularly takes part in negotiations with important clients.

So far, Rim has managed to successfully establish a number of strategic partnerships with an emphasis on the delivery of sustainable solutions in various regions of Africa and Asia.

In addition to her main responsibilities, Rim is presently involved in the upcoming launch of the first agri-based satellite constellation by EOSDA, scheduled for mid-2022. She manages relationships with the EOS SAT investors.

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