Floods affect more people and cause more property damage than many other natural hazards. Civil protection and field teams are in charge of rescuing endangered citizens and mitigating the consequences on infrastructures when such disaster situations happen. To plan, coordinate and conduct field operations, knowing the real extent of flooded area at a certain point in time and the flood evolution is essential. However, as of today, this information is not always available especially during extreme weather conditions and in the case of large scale floods.]
FAAPS (Fully Automatic Aqua Processing Service) proposes to support emergency management professionals with the provision of flood extent maps even in rain conditions and over large areas. This will be achieved thanks to the automatic processing of Earth Observation data. The flood extent maps will be delivered to the emergency professionals wherever they are located (in their offices or in the field). Upon accessing the flood extent information while in the field, the rescue teams will also be indicated their own location with respect to flooded areas. This Location Based Service (LBS), making use of satellite positioning, will increase situational awareness and support rescue operations.
Before floods happen (pre-disaster phase) historic flood extent maps provided by FAAPS will support disaster management authorities to define flood risk areas and if necessary take safety measures. After flood events (post-disaster phase) FAAPS will contribute to conduct damage assessment campaigns.
FAAPS aims at making readily available large scale flood map information to emergency management professionals. The information will be derived from the near real time (NRT) processing of Earth Observation Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data and will be delivered through the Internet to professional grade GIS (Geographical Information System) workstations as well as to consumer mobile devices (desktop, tablet, smartphone). Therefore the FAAPS service can potentially be of help of any person confronted to a flood crisis situation whether he/she works in a disaster centre, conducts rescue operations or is a regular citizen at risk. Additionally FAAPS time-tagged flood extent maps can greatly support insurances and re-insurers companies to assess damage experienced by their customers during a flood.
The project objectives are to develop, validate, demonstrate and assess the benefits for flood management authorities of a future operational service delivering NRT flood extent maps generated by processing ESA satellite data. During this project a fully automatic processing chain will be implemented and validated (without manual interaction, which is currently unique) together with two interfaces for the service provision:
During the project's demonstration period, the FAAPS system will process historic data (from 2005 to 2011) acquired by ESA Envisat satellite ASAR instrument. However the FAAPS system shall be scalable to process future Sentinel-1 data as soon as operationally available. The produced water masks will be made available through both interfaces to Austrian authorities in charge of flood monitoring and management activities. The users involved in the project will assess the benefits of the service with regards to their needs and requirements.
The main user groups targeted by FAAPS are:
Austrian representatives of the above target users are involved in the project. They are in charge of expressing their needs and requirements and providing feedback about the FAAPS demonstration service. These users are:
In general, FAAPS involved users have an increasing need for near real time environmental information. The different Austrian national organisations responsible for disaster management make great efforts to improve crisis management by investing in state-of-the-art communication and information technologies. Actors involved in natural hazard management, disaster emergency relief and public administration at regional and national level require rapid access to scenario-relevant information to ensure fast response to natural disasters, such as flooding.
The FAAPS will rely on a fast and fully automatic processing chain from data acquisition to data provision, based on a framework of building blocks which can be reused to develop future applications. The system consists of the following components:
From the data supply side (data acquisition) the system will retrieve satellite data and in particular will ingest Envisat ASAR as well as Sentinel-1 data (in the future). Whenever satellite SAR data is made available, FAAPS will be triggered and the processing chain will be executed up to the point where the processed water mask is stored in the Data Storage building block. From the service provision side the system will handle user requests via the Cartographic API building block. Upon user request, the water masks will be retrieved from the Data Storage and provided to the user. Both approaches are complementary and ensure fast user delivery and availability of continuous historic data for more in-depth analysis.
Scalability of the system as well as high speed processing will be guaranteed by implementing the various building blocks utilizing cloud computing where suitable. FAAPS will be exposed to high user demands during floods, therefore cloud computing is ideally suited to cope with such requirement.
Finally, end users will have different options to get access to the FAAPS service and related flood delineation maps:
Existing near real time (NRT) monitoring systems are usually based on ground sensors or airborne remote sensing and therefore cannot give a comprehensive picture of current flood situations, especially when it comes to huge floods (e.g. Australia 2011, Pakistan 2010). Furthermore airborne surveys can only be performed by specialized aircrafts which have to be landed near the disaster area to guarantee fast service provision. FAAPS will allow monitoring floods at large scale and delivering the flood extent maps to the users in near real time (few hours after the satellite acquisition).
Heavy rains and stormy weather are likely to occur especially in disaster situations and usually prevent airborne surveys to be performed. Weather conditions do not constitute an obstacle to FAAPS, as the system uses satellite SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) data which is not compromised by rain.
Finally, FAAPS will add greater flexibility for disaster management officers as they will not be restricted to access flood maps from one dedicated workstations anymore. With FAAPS flood monitoring information will be accessible in different granularity and from commonly available devices (e.g. PCs, laptops, handhelds, smartphones, iPads) provided they have an access to the Internet.
The key issues faced by disaster management and emergency response teams are related to the weaknesses of currently available flood monitoring tools and information sources. In particular:
A flood is a process and not a situation, thus there are different phases during a flood event, each of which requires specific flood and flood risk information on different levels and for different recipients.
For example, at the beginning of a flood event, the knowledge of the current flood situation by civil protection organisations and rescue teams (but possibly by insurances and citizens) can greatly prevent damages and casualties. Such a scenario could be fulfilled thanks to FAAPS by delivering daily large scale flood extent maps and flood risk maps derived from historical analyses.
On a more general basis, once operational FAAPS will deliver:
Historical flood data for a real-world identification (not based on models) and determination of flood risks
Space based flood monitoring allows a comprehensive overview of the area concerned in relative short time. In emergency situations, near real time radar (SAR) imagery is available and also during bad weather conditions.
Satellite positioning, allows to deliver to users in the field (e.g. emergency units) the maps near their current position. Consequently emergency units in the field shall not waste time by selecting the right flood maps. Fast location based information delivery is essential when it comes to time critical decision making.
The Final Review of the project was held in September 2013. The project is now closed and the consortium plans to proceed with the commercialisation of the FAAPS service as soon as ESA Sentinel-1 data is available.