Haiti LiDAR

Jan 23, 2010

Recent reports indicate that there is LiDAR data being collected by a number of groups over Haiti in the wake of the 12 January magnitude 7.0 earthquake. These data will potentially be powerful for earthquake relief workers and the scientific community, and should be an important geospatial resource in the recovery and rebuilding of Haiti.

This news article describes the work being done by the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command out of Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to acquire LiDAR around Haiti. These collections are apparently hydrographic surveys of ports and other areas in Haiti using the CHARTS (Compact Hydrographic Airborne Rapid Total Survey) system. More information about the CHARTS system and the National Coastal Mapping program is available here.

Today, a press release entitled, Rochester Institute of Technology Captures Haiti Disaster With High-Tech Imaging System; World Bank Funds Five-Day Mission, was issued that describes the data collection being conducted by a team out of RIT who are acquiring LiDAR, high-resolution color imagery, and thermal infrared data using a platform called WASP (Wildfire Airborne Sensor Program) designed to detect wildfires. The press release provides quite a bit of information about the acquisition, data products, and logistics of the collection. Specifically on the topic of the LiDAR data, the press release states:

The LIDAR capability detects and measures collapsed buildings and standing structures damaged by the earthquake. At the request of the U.S. Geological Survey, Faulring is using LIDAR to map the fault line to estimate how much the earth moved. This information is critical to refinement of earthquake-risk prediction models.

Application of these data to investigations of co-seismic ground rupture is logical and given the tropical vegetation in Haiti I would expect that the data may prove quite useful for locating and documenting surface rupture associated with the earthquake. This is also a potentially interesting test case for application of LiDAR to post-earthquake scientific investigations, but is not the first time that airborne LiDAR has been collected immediately following an earthquake. That honor goes to the LiDAR data collected following the 16 October 1999 Hector Mine, CA Earthquake and available for download here.

My understanding is that the RIT WASP data will made publicly available as soon as it has been processed. At this time I don't have specific information on how they intend to distribute the data products, but we've offered OpenTopography as a potential access point for the data if there is a need to host it someplace. When we know more about how to access these data we'll provide an update.

Finally, I understand that the scientific community has deployed at least one terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) instrument to Haiti for post-earthquake investigations.

UPDATE (January 24): Wired Science has a nice article with more information and preliminary images of the RIT LiDAR data discussed above: New 3-D Aerial Images of Haiti Will Aid Recovery and Research