Geospatial firm Woolpert has collected, processed and delivered high-resolution, before-and-after aerial imagery within days of Hurricane Harvey and subsequent flooding.
“There is an urgent need for accurate information regarding the physical aftermath of Harvey, and we are one of the few firms that can create, deliver and aggregate maps of this resolution in the abbreviated time frame necessary,” says Woolpert CEO Scott Cattran, adding that the firm has an office in Houston. “We knew this was something we could do to help our neighbors in Texas, so we mobilized quickly.”
The maps enable viewers to navigate and enhance specific locations across Houston, offering high-resolution data to precisely illustrate the impact of the flooding. It has been aggregated with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Google to provide the most comprehensive product.
The imagery enables local, state and federal officials to identify specific areas most in need of resources and allows anyone with Internet access the ability to check on neighborhoods, property damage, road closures, etc.
Woolpert waited for the high-water mark to be reached in Houston on Sept. 1, collected aerial imagery, flew the imagery back to its headquarters in Ohio, processed that data, and shared the resulting maps immediately to its public website and application.
The 1-foot imagery was paired with comparable imagery collected in 2016, and installed in a before-and-after online slider to easily identify dams, bridges, homes, workplaces, etc., affected by the disaster. Woolpert is conducting more aerial collections as weather allows to augment the imagery. The maps also will be adjusted manually over time to improve accuracy.
“To get the imagery this quickly, flown at less-than-ideal conditions with clouds and cloud reflections, it’s not as precise as it could be. However, timing took precedent for this collection,” says Cattran, adding that he was proud of his employees for giving their time to the cause.
This is the second time that Woolpert has donated this service to assist with disaster relief efforts. In October 2015, the firm flew, processed and posted perishable aerial imagery within hours of massive flooding in South Carolina. Members of the firm then remained on site to assist as needed.
Woolpert also has made its staff available to the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the City of Houston Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and other local, state and federal officials to further this effort.
Woolpert’s data is being shared with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation (NAPSG), which has created a dedicated site to aggregate the “most relevant and best available data” to support response and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The effort was the request of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD) site is at https://respond-harvey-geoplatform.opendata.arcgis.com/.
Woolpert is a national architecture, engineering and geospatial (AEG) firm that strategically blends engineering with technology and geospatial applications. With a dynamic R&D department, Woolpert works with business partners like Google; operates a fleet of planes, sensors and unmanned aerial systems (UAS); and continually works with advanced water technologies, asset management, building information modeling (BIM) and sustainable design. For more than 100 years and with 24 offices across the U.S., Woolpert serves the needs of federal, state and local governments; private and public companies and universities; energy and transportation departments; and the U.S. armed forces.