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EarthData’s Emergency Response System demonstrated

EarthData, US-based mapping and GIS company, announced the success of its new rapid response mapping system, demonstrated earlier this week at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. The Airborne Rapid Imaging for Emergency Support (or ARIES) system, consisting of a multi-sensor airborne component, rapid data downlink, and a mobile communications and map production center, will support first-responders with near real-time geospatial data to use in rescue and recovery operations at disaster sites worldwide.

As an observer at this week’s demonstration, Jo Jordon, Regional GIS Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), commented that “having maps within hours instead of days and site-event updates in near real-time can help save lives.”

ARIES was born in the wake of September 11, 2001, when EarthData utilized a multi-sensor approach to map Ground Zero with digital imagery, laser terrain data, and thermal imaging. “While our 10-hour turnaround mapping Ground Zero was an industry landmark, we quickly realized that first-responders need map and GIS data much faster,” explained Logan, who helped mobilize the EarthData response team to begin mapping the disaster site by September 14.

Bringing ARIES from a concept to a solution has been a collaborative effort between EarthData and program partners, Raytheon Solipsys and Trex Enterprises. The system integrates aerial data acquisition, gigabit-per-second data downlinks between air and ground, and a mobile communications and processing center, with the goal of placing finished map and GIS products into the hands of first-responders within 3 hours of collecting data at a disaster site. And, because the data is digital, it can be disseminated over the web to decision makers at locations in the field, across the country, or around the world, enabling situation awareness as site conditions change.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Domestic Preparedness funded Phase 1 ARIES development, which culminated in the November 17 live-system demonstration that confirmed ARIES capabilities and revealed the system’s potential for even faster performance.

Phases 2 through 4 will, respectively, upgrade and refine the prototype, field ARIES systems to permanent sites nationwide, and implement procedures to ensure readiness for national emergencies well into the future. Program manager Terry Busch adds that lessons learned during the demonstration indicate that delivery time may be reduced by 50% or more with these system enhancements.

While ARIES was conceived in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, it is not solely a terrorist response system.