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Monitoring Australia's disaster impact from above

Sep 2023

When disaster strikes, aerial imagery and wide-scale location intelligence provide insights that can help generate faster, more accurate decisions from key stakeholders.

Sep 2023


When disaster strikes, aerial imagery and wide-scale location intelligence provide insights that can help generate faster, more accurate decisions from key stakeholders: government authorities, responders, emergency services, insurance companies, and more.

Earth observation occurs above our heads at various altitudes – satellites in space, fixed-wing aircraft in our skies, and drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) hovering above our homes. This mix of imagery all combines to help provide a more complete picture.
In September 2023, the Australian government announced its engagement of the Finnish satellite company ICEYE to provide access to satellite-collected data about floods and bushfires. The content aims to give a high-level overview across large areas, helping inform response efforts by providing a binary classification of whether a building or structure is damaged or not damaged.
To get closer and to understand the extent of damage in more detail, insurers and other organisations are relying on higher-resolution, clearer aerial imagery, captured by aircraft at lower altitudes, such as Nearmap ImpactResponse.
At a resolution of 5.5cm–7.5cm Ground Sampling Distance (GSD), Nearmap high resolution aerial imagery provides a clearer and more detailed view of damage, with pre-event surveys providing context for comparison to determine the extent and severity of impact.
This imagery can zoom-in at an individual property level or zoom out to reveal suburbs, regions and further beyond.
For example, the image below is of Armidale in NSW, taken in February 2021 – a high-resolution, wide-scale capture of the area surveyed from a fixed-wing aircraft.
The image below shows what can be revealed with geospatial artificial intelligence – AI layers have been overlaid on high-resolution imagery which was captured on 17th October, 2021, after a tornado struck the area two days prior.
The AI layers are shown in different colours: roofs in orange**, temporary repairs** in blue**, vegetation debris** in green, junk and wreckage as yellow, and roof structural damage in red.
You can see how much information can be quickly summarised from an image enhanced with AI insights from deep learning and machine learning.
Enhanced with Nearmap AI data insights, Nearmap ImpactAssessmentAI enables users to identify instances of structural damage, repairs (temporary and permanent), junk, wreckage debris, and more – at scale. This helps decision-makers perform a preliminary assessment of damages to plan the appropriate response.
Often these insights tell responders and insurers more about what’s happened to a property than the owners themselves know, especially if hasn’t been safe for people to return to their home or business.
Insurance carriers equipped with these location intelligence insights can bring peace of mind to their policyholders. With the ability to instigate claims as soon as they identify instances of full or partial loss in their portfolio of insured properties, the claims process can get underway sooner.
This can help affected residents return to a state of security and keep assessors safer, without having to put themselves in potential danger by travelling to water logged or bushfire-ravaged areas to inspect properties and structures.
To validate insurance claims, in some instances carriers may use drone-captured imagery, in addition to other imagery, to assess individual property characteristics in more detail – to check small-scale repairs or verify claimed damage, for example.
Economically, drone captures only stack up when there is an immediate need for a higher level of detail in a very small area (costs blow out when larger areas need covering), inaccessibility, or where the expense can be justified by a project’s outcome.
As Australia approaches another record-breaking summer marked by potentially severe flooding and bushfire events, the Nearmap team watches closely to monitor the situation.
Our aim at Nearmap is to get our technology into the skies as soon as possible after major events, to safely share what we see from above.
Find out more about how Nearmap aerial imagery and location intelligence could help your business survive and thrive.
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