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State Of Alaska Improves Mapping With Quickbird Satellite Imagery 07.08.2003

July 8, 2003
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DigitalGlobe's images prove useful for emergency response, economic development and community outreach.

DigitalGlobe announced that the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is using QuickBird satellite imagery for a number of mapping applications supporting emergency response services, economic development, and community outreach efforts. The DNR uses the imagery to fulfill two different contracts: one serving Fairbanks and North Pole area, funded by the National Fire Plan, and the other serving the 15 other communities in the Tanana Valley, funded by a NASA grant awarded to the State of Alaska in 2001.

According to Marc Lee, Fairbanks area forester for the State of Alaska DNR, the DNR contracted for the following QuickBird image collections:

* February 2002: The DNR contracted for the acquisition of 800 square miles of QuickBird data for Fairbanks. Over 500 square miles, or five satellite image scenes, were collected in May and August 2002. The remaining 300 square miles, or three scenes, were collected in May 2003.

* May 2002: The DNR contracted for the collection of 1,500 square miles, or 15 scenes, of QuickBird data for the Tanana Valley. Under this contract, each of the 15 towns or villages was to be covered by 100 square miles of QuickBird imagery. Over 1,000 square miles were collected in May and August 2002, while the remaining scenes were acquired in the summer of 2003.

The DNR is using the 60-centimeter resolution panchromatic and 2.44-meter multispectral images for numerous land planning applications serving the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Golden Heart Utilities Company, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the City of Fairbanks, the Golden Valley Electric Association, 14 fire departments, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Tanana Chiefs Conference, to name a few entities.

"The QuickBird imagery is used as a backdrop in our GIS to provide basic mapping services that we've never had before. Because most of Alaska is so remote, many villages have no maps at all," said Lee. He explained that the Department of Commerce and Economic Development is creating community profiles for each village and delineating essential mapping features such as roads, schools, utilities, landforms and census information.

"The dilemma that Alaska faces is that we have no good data sources, compared to the lower 48 states in the U.S., which historically have good maps and elevation models," Lee explained. "QuickBird data serves as an excellent, functional mapping base because of its high resolution and survey-grade ground control points, and we can achieve a locational accuracy to within three feet. With these digital maps, state troopers can more easily navigate in remote villages in response to calls for help. Additionally, villages and town councils will have basic maps on which to make planning decisions," Lee said.

Most recently, the QuickBird images were used by the DNR Division of Forestry to help firefighters fight wildfires that began blazing through forested areas about 80 miles south of Fairbanks on May 26. Firefighters used the images to determine the locations of endangered structures, evacuation routes, and areas where fire fighter personnel needed to be dispatched. The QuickBird images replaced outdated, inefficient quadrangle paper maps of remote areas, and street atlas maps in the urban interface - firefighters had previously used these maps to attack fires. (See related DigitalGlobe announcement dated June 18, 2003.)

During rehabilitation efforts after the fire, the DNR discovered that bulldozers used to construct fire lines near private property had damaged some survey monuments. The Division of Forestry used the locational accuracy of the QuickBird imagery, in conjunction with parcel coverages and GPS locations of the bulldozer lines, to help identify which monuments needed to be replaced.

The DNR is orthorectifying its QuickBird data and making it available to all area fire departments so that emergency personnel can prepare for and respond to future disasters such as fires, floods and river bank erosion.

"The QuickBird imagery acts as a catalyst to pull a lot of different data sources together for our geographic information system (GIS), as well as interactively share the data with other local agencies," said Lee. "Firefighters don't have to be GIS experts to use the data - they just need access to the data, and the digital format of a GIS is an easy way to provide it to them. Providing our firefighters with QuickBird imagery is a life and safety issue. They can see safety zones and areas with highly flammable fuels, as well as quickly identify areas for burnouts or fireline construction."

The NASA grant the State of Alaska received in 2001 prompted the DNR to purchase QuickBird imagery covering a 1,500 square-mile area in Alaska's Tanana Valley. A long-term goal of the NASA proposal is the development of base data necessary to support fire behavior software that predicts wildfire spread. The project includes the creation of a database of fuel models based on vegetation mapping to help the Division of Forestry to identify fire prone areas, predict fire spread with fire behavior software (allowing the Division of Forestry to plan fire suppression actions or evacuations as required,) support flood control measures, and support hazardous material spill responses.

Additional applications resulting from the NASA grant include:

* Facilities mapping of sewer, water, power, and structural locations and sources

* Infrastructure mapping of roads and access trails

* Fuels hazards mapping and identification of defensible space

* Aviation safety, inventory of airstrips and airstrip approach information

* Public safety support for village protection and protection of safety officers and Alaska state troopers

Alaska's Division of Forestry uses PCI Geomatica as well as ESRI's ArcView software to manage and maintain the satellite and aerial imagery and other geospatial data in its GIS. By pulling data from different sources and managing it in a central GIS, the Division of Forestry can offer geospatial information services to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the Alaska Department of Transportation and other state agencies that need access to the information for creating forestry inventories, vegetation maps, parcel databases, tax assessments and other applications. The Alaska DNR-Land and Records Information Section will also be posting the imagery on the Web, along with its state ownership parcel database coverages.

Lee said that in addition to QuickBird's technical superiority, the State of Alaska selected DigitalGlobe products because of the company's open business model. "DigitalGlobe provides us with ephemeris satellite data, thereby allowing us to correct - or orthorectify - the data ourselves. This is extremely cost-efficient and opens the door to numerous other mapping applications. Alaska lacks good ground control and this feature makes QuickBird the only practical product for Alaska. DigitalGlobe's customer service and technical support has been nothing less than outstanding."

Visit DigitalGlobe at the ESRI User Conference in Booth #1721 San Diego Convention Center, July 7-11, 2003

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