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Virtual Disaster Viewer Used to Disseminate Images from Haiti Earthquake

On January 20, 2010, a World Bank-ImageCat-RIT airborne remote sensing data collection, disseminated by MCEER, began over the earthquake stricken regions of Haiti. The reconnaissance involved daily flights over a five-day period to collect remote sensing imagery in the visible and infrared, as well as light detection and ranging (LiDAR) topography in the area around Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The flights were divided into several “missions” that were flown in a day or less (see map), and the data collected each day was processed and is available for viewing through the Virtual Disaster Viewer (VDV), located on the MCEER website at

Up-to-date topographical information including collapsed buildings, bridges and other barriers, as well as environmental changes such as heat sources, pollution and vegetation changes, can be determined with the data collected. The images can then be used to better coordinate emergency response and relief activities in the short-term, provide baseline data for recovery of the community in the long-term, and aid research efforts to improve future response to similar disasters.

The reconnaissance was arranged by the NSF-sponsored Information Products Laboratory for Emergency Response (IPLER) project, co-led by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University at Buffalo (UB) and one of its industry partners (ImageCat, Inc.). The collaborative effort is led by Ronald Eguchi (ImageCat, Inc.), Don Mckeown and Jan van Aardt, (RIT's Center for Imaging Science) and Chris Renschler (MCEER and the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis located at UB).

The rapid response project was funded by the World Bank through a contract with ImageCat, Inc. The data collection is coordinated with the U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA, who have also requested additional imagery and specific LiDAR collection for a more accurate mapping of the fault line that caused the earthquake as well as the post-event tremors.

For more information on IPLER, an NSF-sponsored partnership between the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University at Buffalo dedicated to innovation in disaster management, visit

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