Emergency Response System Delivers Maps in Record Time

Washington, DC (November 19, 2004) – EarthData, a leading mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) company, announced the success of its new rapid response mapping system, demonstrated earlier this week at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. The Airborne Rapid Imaging for Emergency Support (or ARIES) system, consisting of a multi-sensor airborne component, rapid data downlink, and a mobile communications and map production center, will support first-responders with near real-time geospatial data to use in rescue and recovery operations at disaster sites worldwide. “The demonstration exceeded our expectations,” remarked Bryan J. Logan, chairman of EarthData. “We were able to collect three types of aerial data (digital imagery, thermal data, and laser terrain profiles), download it from the aircraft to the mobile command center via high-speed direct downlink, and process the data into usable map products within 3 hours of data collection.” As an observer at Wednesday’s demonstration, Jo Jordon, Regional GIS Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), commented that “having maps within hours instead of days and site-event updates in near real-time can help save lives.”

ARIES was born in the wake of September 11, 2001, when EarthData utilized a multi-sensor approach to map Ground Zero with digital imagery, laser terrain data, and thermal imaging. “While our 10-hour turnaround mapping Ground Zero was an industry landmark, we quickly realized that first-responders need map and GIS data much faster,” explained Logan, who helped mobilize the EarthData response team to begin mapping the disaster site by September 14.

Bringing ARIES from a concept to a solution has been a collaborative effort between EarthData and program partners, Raytheon Solipsys and Trex Enterprises. The system integrates aerial data acquisition, gigabit-per-second data downlinks between air and ground, and a mobile communications and processing center, with the goal of placing finished map and GIS products into the hands of first-responders within 3 hours of collecting data at a disaster site. And, because the data is digital, it can be disseminated over the web to decision makers at locations in the field, across the country, or around the world, enabling situation awareness as site conditions change.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Domestic Preparedness funded Phase 1 ARIES development, which culminated in the November 17 live-system demonstration that confirmed ARIES capabilities and revealed the system’s potential for even faster performance. Phases 2 through 4 will, respectively, upgrade and refine the prototype, field ARIES systems to permanent sites nationwide, and implement procedures to ensure readiness for national emergencies well into the future. Program manager Terry Busch adds that lessons learned during the demonstration indicate that delivery time may be reduced by 50% or more with these system enhancements.

While ARIES was conceived in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, it is not solely a terrorist response system. “Quite the contrary,” says George Gorman, EarthData Technologies president and general manager, “ARIES’ greatest contribution will be in responding to natural disasters: hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, fires, and the like.” Gorman explains that if ARIES had been used during the recent hurricane season, emergency personnel in Florida and along the Gulf Coast would have had data to use in monitoring transportation corridors, evaluating structural damage, assisting in recovering the power grid, and monitoring all rescue operations within hours. “That’s the goal,” emphasizes EarthData chief executive officer, Anne Hale Miglarese, “that ARIES will become a national asset in serving US citizens and first responders when they need help the most.”

About EarthData
EarthData is an airborne data collection, mapping, and GIS services organization that provides clients with customized products, services, and GIS applications to support a wide range of land use, resource management, and engineering activities. With its fleet of aircraft, the organization collects aerial photography, uses an airborne laser system (lidar) and imaging radar (GeoSAR) to produce 3D terrain models, and develops or deploys other remote sensing technologies to detect thermal and multi spectral information about the earth’s surface. EarthData offices in Florida, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, DC, use this data to create and supply photogrammetric, lidar, radar, and digital orthophoto mapping and GIS applications and services. EarthData also owns a mid-west mapping and GIS company, Horizons, Inc., with offices in South Dakota and Minnesota. (www.earthdata.com)