VDV Virtual Disaster Viewer

Virtual Disaster Viewer:

Advancing Earthquake Reconnaissance in MS Virtual Earth

The website that you are about to explore represents an exciting combination of new technologies to provide an online Virtual Disaster Viewer (VDV) for the Wenchuan China Earthquake. Developed in conjunction with MS Virtual Earth, VDV is a new way of viewing a disaster zone and generating preliminary assessments of earthquake damage, when access to the affected area is restricted.

The overarching aim of the Wenchuan Virtual Disaster Viewer (VDV) is to share and disseminate satellite- and field-based damage data and situation assessments, to promote the widespread use of this information for non-profit applications and research.

Specific goals of the VDV program include:

  1. Building damage: Counting the number of collapsed and damaged buildings
  2. Humanitarian response: Evaluating the extent to which humanitarian response is meeting the needs (e.g. scale, proximity) of affected populations
  3. Bridge damage: Assessing the utility of satellite imagery for determining infrastructure (bridge) damage
  4. Landslide: Quantifying the spatial distribution of landslides for improving landslide prediction

The VDV site contains a public viewing interface, through which you can examine high-resolution imagery for the area of YingXiu, GPS-referenced photographs and video collected by field teams and satellite image-based expert interpretations of:

  1. Building Damage
  2. Infrastructure (bridge) Damage
  3. Landslide Areas
  4. Landslide Blocking Road/railway
  5. Tent Count
  6. Tent Characteristics

It also contains a password protected login, through which you can take part in the expert interpretation. To participate in the damage/situation assessment, contact vdv_admin@imagecatinc.com.

VDV is being pilot tested for the Wenchuan China earthquake, where a M7.9 earthquake in Eastern Sichuan on May 12, 2008 caused an estimated 80,000+ casualties, as well as crippling damage to the building stock and infrastructure. It is anticipated that the volunteer-analyzed imagery and the field photographs will provide a new way of looking at disasters, a way that in the future will involve more investigators in immediate reconnaissance from their desks.

VDV is the brainchild of an international consortium of earthquake experts from Europe and the USA, whose mission is to advance earthquake response, and ultimately improve engineering standards around the World. Led by ImageCat as VDV developer and data integrator, the consortium includes structural engineers, geotechnical experts, geographers, and social scientists from the:

  • UK-based Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT)
  • Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI)
  • Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER)
  • University College London's Earthquake and People Interaction Centre (EPICentre)
  • UK Government's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

An even larger consortium has been involved in the acquisition and initial analysis of the satellite imagery, as well as providing input to the initial structure of VDV. These groups include the Geo-Engineering Earthquake Reconnaissance Association (GEER) and many of the individuals and groups that participate in the Remote Sensing Subcommittee of the Information Technology Committee of EERI, as well as participants in the International Workshop Series on Remote Sensing for Disaster Response, supported by USGS, MCEER, EERI, UC Irvine and others.

VDV is a first-of-its-kind "social networking tool" for earthquake impact and damage assessment. Working within a specially designed online tool developed in MS Virtual Earth, hundreds of earthquake and remote sensing experts will be assigned specific areas or "tiles" of the affected areas to review and provide their assessment by comparing before and after high-resolution satellite images acquired by DigitalGlobe and Geoeye imagery companies. Initial information gathered provided by the engineers will include the number of collapsed, heavily damaged and intact buildings, the number of collapsed bridges, the area affected by landslides, the length of roads obstructed by landslides and the location and scale of humanitarian relief operations.

As they are collected, EEFIT, EERI and other expert field teams will also feed in photographs and video, to provide a complete picture of the unfolding situation. These data will help validate the expert satellite interpretations. These GPS-referenced datasets will span affected regions of Sichuan, including YingXiu, Shifang, Dujiangyan and Mianyang.

VDV represents a milestone in earthquake reconnaissance, providing the global earthquake and humanitarian communities with an assessment of damage and human loss for an event that otherwise may never be well-understood.