Using Social Networks and Commercial Remote Sensing to Assess Impacts of Natural Events on Transportation Infrastructure

Sponsoring Organization: DOT, Research and Innovative Technology Administration.


This project develops a new capability to use social networks for cueing commercial remote sensing of transportation infrastructure conditions in response to natural events. The capability will be valuable in situations similar to Hurricane Irene, a powerful 2011 hurricane that left extensive damage along the US East Coast. Disasters such as Irene highlight the need for improved methods to ‘cue’ satellite imagery collection to assess the impact of fast-moving natural events on transportation infrastructure. To meet these challenges this project will develop and deliver a capability to access realtime social networks such as Twitter and then convert information into interoperable geospatial services. These services can be used to ‘scan’ for geosocial inputs to natural event impacts on transportation infrastructure - and improve the speed and accuracy of commercial imagery satellite collection of transportation infrastructure impacts. Once cueing data is available, commercial high-resolution imaging satellites will use the information to task collection over potentially affected transportation infrastructure. Collected commercial remote sensing will be made available to a broad community of users and advisors through online services.

The project brings together leaders in geographic information science (George Mason University), commercial satellite imagery (DigitalGlobe) and spatial information technology (The Carbon Project). In addition to developing a working capability, the team will conduct coordination and outreach activities to engage test users around the nation and educate the next generation of scientists on the capability.

The views and opinions expressed herein are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Commercial Remote Sensing & Spatial Information Technologies Program, the U.S. Department of Transportation, or any of its Operating Administrations.