NGA Deploys Apps for Humanitarian Aid Mission

by Matt Ball on October 17, 2011

Letitia Long, director of the National Geospatial-Information Agency, demonstrated a number of applications that they have developed to deal with their humanitarian assistance mission. In the past, the agency has developed paper mapbooks that required the printing, binding and shipping of more than 200,000 pages for a typical disaster. These tools go direct to first responders, and often they have just pulled a few pages from the book for the area they will be working in.

With the slow approach of Hurricane Irene, it provided an ideal test for applications that they developed to replace the paper mapbooks. With the applications, the first responder can zoom into the area of interest and see both before and after imagery. The application can serve the equivalent of 6,000 pages per hour on the mobile device.

There is also a new application for first responders for navigation that includes 451 layers of infrastructure to identify and understand what existed in damaged locations before impact. This application is particularly useful in heavily damaged areas where there are no longer street signs. The application provides layers of data that can be queried and zoomed into, with an integrated compass to navigate to the areas of interest.

The handheld applications save the agency a great deal of time and resources, and delivers information in the way that the user requires. The move to digital is also taking place in how the agency serves the military, making their flight manuals digital, and helping serve lidar and other information to the field so that helicopters can determine the best landing site. Previously, flight manuals were printed every 38 days at a considerable cost. In fact, going digital will save the agency $20 million in printing costs per year.

With applications providing self-service information, the agency can spend more time analyzing information to provide greater intelligence to the field.

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