Patrick Meier: Crowdsourced Crisis Map of UAV/Aerial Videos for Disaster Response

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Crowdsourced Crisis Map of UAV/Aerial Videos for Disaster Response

The first version of the Humanitarian UAV Network’s Crisis Map of UAV/aerial videos is now live on the Network’s website. The crowdsourced map features dozens of aerial videos of recent disasters. Like social media, this new medium—user-generated (aerial) content—can be used by humanitarian organizations to complement their damage assessments and thus improve situational awareness.

The purpose of this Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) map is not only to provide humanitarian organizations and disaster-affected communities with an online repository of aerial information on disaster damage to augment their situational awareness; this crisis map also serves to raise awareness on how to safely & responsibly use small UAVs for rapid damage assessments. This explains why users who upload new content to the map must confirm that they have read the UAViator‘s Code of Conduct. They also have to confirm that the videos conform to the Network’s mission and that they do not violate privacy or copyrights. In sum, the map seeks to crowdsource both aerial footage and critical thinking for the responsible use of UAVs in humanitarian settings.

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Jul 18

Patrick Meier: Using UAVs for Community Mapping & Disaster Risk Reduction — The Haiti Example

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Using UAVs for Community Mapping and Disaster Risk Reduction in Haiti

“What if, to solve our problems, we simply need to rise above them?” CartONG and France’s OpenStreetMap (OSM) community recently teamed up to support OSM Haiti’s disaster risk reduction efforts by deploying a small UAV, “which proved very useful for participatory mapping.” The video documentary below provides an excellent summary of this humanitarian UAV mission which took place just a few weeks ago.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

As I noted in this earlier blog post on grassroots UAVs, the use of UAVs at the community level can be viewed as an extension of community and participatory mapping, which is why community engagement is pivotal for humanitarian UAV deployments. In many ways, a micro-UAV can actually bring a community together; can catalyze conversations & participation, which should be taken as more than simply a positive externality. Public Participatory GIS Projects (PPGIS) have long been used as a means to catalyze community conversations and even conflict resolution and mediation. So one should not overlook the positive uses of UAVs as a way to convene a community. Indeed, as CartONG and partners rightly note in the above video documentary, “The UAV is the uniting tool that brings the community together.”

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Jul 10

Berto Jongman: 27 Maps Explaining Iraq Crisis

Categories: Geospatial
Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman

27 maps that explain the crisis in Iraq

by Zack Beauchamp, Max Fisher and Dylan Matthews on June 23, 2014

The current Iraq crisis began in early June, when the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which already controls parts of Syria, seized much of northern Iraq, including the major city of Mosul. The conflict has roots in Iraq’s complicated history, its religious and ethnic divisions, and of course in the Iraq War that began with the 2003 US-led invasion. These 27 maps are a rough guide to today’s crisis and the deeper forces behind it.

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Jun 25

Patrick Meier: Zoomanitarians – Using Citizen Science and Next Generation Satellites to Accelerate Disaster Damage Assessments

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Zoomanitarians: Using Citizen Science and Next Generation Satellites to Accelerate Disaster Damage Assessments

Zoomanitarians has been in the works for well over a year, so we’re excited to be going fully public for the first time. Zoomanitarians is a joint initiative between Zooniverse (Brook Simmons), Planet Labs (Alex Bakir) and myself at QCRI. The purpose of Zoomanitarians is to accelerate disaster damage assessments by leveraging Planet Labs’ unique constellation of 28 satellites and Zooniverse’s highly scalable microtasking platform. As I noted in this earlier post, digital volunteers from Zooniverse tagged well over 2 million satellite images (of Mars, below) in just 48 hours. So why not invite Zooniverse volunteers to tag millions of images taken by Planet Labs after major disasters to help humanitarians accelerate their damage assessments?

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Jun 4

Mini-Me: GoogleMaps Add Elevation — Good-Bye National Geospatial Agency? Can Tiling Extend to All-Source Data M4IS2/OSE?

Who, Mini-Me?

Who, Mini-Me?

Huh?

Google Maps Now Show Elevation Statistics For Bikers

Google, the world’s largest internet search operator, is bringing one of the most useful features to bikers using its Google Maps service. While cycling can be fun, sometimes an arbitrary hill climb can be a challenging task. But it appears that Google has finally come up with a fix for that, not essentially helping you get the bike to the top of the hill, but by showing an upcoming elevation in Google Maps’ bike routes. The app now features elevation statistics to help bikers tackle steep hills.

Google did not officially announce the feature but confirmed to TechCrunch that the addition is indeed new to Maps. The Mountain View, California based tech giant has offered GPS functionality for bikers for few years now, but helped not more than being a map.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

Bikers can simple select a bike route on the map and Google will find the directions for the destination. Following the update, information showing an elevation and descent will populate. In addition to the graphical representation of the hill, Google also displays a card to show the number of feet a biker must climb before reaching the top and descend through the other side.

Google will not display any elevation statistics when bikers are riding on flat roads. Google also confirmed to the tech blog that the new feature is available in all 14 countries where the biking directions are available on Maps, including Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden and the US.

Google has been updating its mapping service quite frequently, of late. Earlier this month, the web giant added offline support for Google Maps, integrated Uber taxi service, improved local business search and more. These changes show how badly Google wants to stay ahead of its rivals, such as Nokia and Apple. The addition of more features to make the service useful for end users is surely an added advantage.

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May 17

Worth a Look: Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools — Open Source and Cross-Platform

Categories: Geospatial,IO Tools

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools (GAT) is an open-source and cross-platform Geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing software package that is distributed under the GNU General Public License. It has been developed by the members of the University of Guelph Centre for Hydrogeomatics and is intended for advanced geospatial analysis and data visualization in research and education settings. The package features a friendly graphical user interface (GUI) with help and documentation built into the dialog boxes for each of the more than 360 analysis tools. Users are also able to access extensive off-line and online help resources. The Whitebox GAT project started as a replacement for the Terrain Analysis System (TAS), a geospatial analysis software package written by John Lindsay. The current release support raster and vector (Shapefile) data structures.

Whitebox GAT is extendible. Users are able to create and add custom tools or plugins using any JVM language. The software also allows scripting using the Groovy, Python and JavaScript programming languages.

Whitebox Home Page

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May 3

Patrick Meier: An Introduction to Humanitarian UAVs – Comment by Robert Steele

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

An Introduction to Humanitarian UAVs and their Many Uses

Satellite images have been used to support humanitarian efforts for decades. Why? A bird’s eye view of a disaster-affected area simply captures far more information than most Earth-based data-collection technologies can. In short, birds have more situational awareness than we do. In contrast to satellites, UAVs offer significantly higher-resolution imagery, are unobstructed by clouds, can be captured more quickly, by more groups and more often at a fraction of the cost with far fewer licensing and data-sharing restrictions than satellite imagery.

Introduction to UAVs

There are basically three types of UAVs: 1) the balloon/kite variety; 2) fixed-wing UAVs; 3) rotary-wing UAVs. While my forthcoming book looks at humanitarian applications of each type, I’ll focus on fixed-wing and rotary-wing UAVs here since these are of greatest interest to humanitarian organizations. These types of UAVs differ from traditional remote control planes and helicopters because they are programmable and intelligent. UAVs can be programmed to take-off, fly and land completely autonomously, for example. They often include intelligent flight stabilization features that adapt for changing wind speeds and other weather-related conditions. They also have a number of built-in fail-safe mechanisms; some of the newer UAVs even include automated collision avoidance systems.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

Fixed-wing UAVs like senseFly’s eBees (above) are launched by hand and can land a wide variety of surfaces, requiring only a few meters of landing space. They fly autonomously along pre-programmed routes and also land themselves auto-matically. My colleague Adam from senseFly recently flew eBees to support recovery efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Yolanda. Adam is also on the Advisory Board of the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators). Other fixed-wing UAVs are flown manually and require an airstrip for both manual take-off and landing. Rotary-wing UAVs, in contrast, are “helicopters” with three or more propellors. Quadcopters, for example, have four propellors, like the Huginn X1 below, which my colleague Liam Dawson, another Advisory Board member, flew following Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. One advantage of rotary-UAVs is that they take-off and land vertically. They can also hover in one fixed place and can also be programmed to fly over designated points.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

Rotary-UAVs cannot glide like their fixed-wing counterparts, which means their batteries get used up fairly quickly. So they can’t stay airborne for very long (~25 minutes, 2 kilometer range, depending on the model) compared to fixed-wing UAVs like the eBee (~45 minutes, 3 kilometers). Advisory Board member Shane Coughlan is designing fixed-wing humanitarian UAVs that will have a range of several hundred kilometers. Fixed-wing UAVs, however, cannot hover in one place over time. So both types of UAVs come with their advantages and disadvantages. Most UAV experts agree that fixed-wing and rotary-wing UAVs can serve complementary purposes, however. You can quickly use a quadcopter to an initial aerial recon and then send a fixed-wing UAV for more detailed, high-resolution imagery capture.

Humanitarian Uses of UAVs

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May 1

Jean Lievens: Open Source Urbanism & “Right to Infrastructure”

Jean Lievens

Jean Lievens

The right to infrastructure: a prototype for open source urbanism

Alberto Corsín Jiménez

Abstract. This paper develops an analytical framework to place the rise of open source urbanism in context, and develops the concept of the ‘right to infrastructure’ as expressive of new ecologies of urban relations that have come into being. It describes, first, a genealogy for open source technology, focusing in particular on how open source urban hardware projects may challenge urban theory. It moves then to describe in detail various dimensions and implications of an open source infrastructural project in Madrid. In all, the paper analyses three challenges that the development of open source urban infrastructures is posing to the institutions of urban governance and property: the evolving shape and composition of urban ecologies; the technical and design challenges brought about by open source urban projects; and the social organisation of the ‘right to infrastructure’ as a political, active voice in urban governance. In the last instance, the right to infrastructure, I shall argue, signals the rise of the ‘prototype’ as an emerging figure for contemporary sociotechnical designs in and for social theory.
Keywords: open source urbanism, infrastructures, urban ecologies, urban commons, right to the city, prototypes

Corsín Jiménez A, 2014, “The right to infrastructure: a prototype for open source urbanism” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32(2) 342 – 362

PDF (21 Pages): 2014 Open Source Urbanism Right to Infrastructure

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Apr 28

Patrick Meier: Got TweetCred? Use This Tool To Automatically Identify Credible Tweets

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Got TweetCred? Use it To Automatically Identify Credible Tweets

What if there were a way to automatically identify credible tweets during major events like disasters? Sounds rather far-fetched, right? Think again.

The new field of Digital Information Forensics is increasingly making use of Big Data analytics and techniques from artificial intelligence like machine learning to automatically verify social media. This is how my QCRI colleague ChaTo et al. already predicted both credible and non-credible tweets generated after the Chile Earthquake (with an accuracy of 86%). Meanwhile, my colleagues Aditi, et al. from IIIT Delhi also used machine learning to automatically rank the credibility of some 35 million tweets generated during a dozen major international events such as the UK Riots and the Libya Crisis. So we teamed up with Aditi et al. to turn those academic findings into TweetCred, a free app that identifies credible tweets automatically.

We’ve just launched the very first version of TweetCred—key word being first. This means that our new app is still experimental. On the plus side, since TweetCred is powered by machine learning, it will become increasingly accurate over time as more users make use of the app and “teach” it the difference between credible and non-credible tweets. Teaching TweetCred is as simple as a click of the mouse. Take the tweet below, for example.

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Apr 28

Stephen E. Arnold: New York Public Library Posts Open Maps

Categories: Access,Data,Geospatial
Stephen E. Arnold

Stephen E. Arnold

New York Public Library Posts Maps

The New York Public Library has a massive collection of beautiful maps, but instead of keeping them locked in an archive Motherboard reports, “The New York Public Library Releases 20,000 Beautiful High Resolution Maps.”

All of the 20,000 maps are available via open access. What is even more amazing is that the NYPL decided to release the maps under the Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. If you are unfamiliar with a Creative Commons license, it means that users are free to download content and do whatever they want with it.

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Apr 6