FAAPS - Fully Automated Aqua Processing Service

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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.

Objectives of the service

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:

  • The FAAPS mobile application : will be a location based smart phone / tablet application displaying latest flood information on a map background together with the user's position (rescuer or standard citizen). The application will enable individuals to evaluate the extent of the flood situation, take precautionary measures and possibly reduce the likelihood of human and economic losses.
  • The FAAPS professional gateway will provide disaster management teams with an on-line access to current and historic flood extent maps directly compatible with their current working environment (including GIS) and with the capability to overlay these data with numerous other data sets.

FAAPS Mobile Application

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.

Users and their needs

The main user groups targeted by FAAPS are:

  • Civil Protection Agencies.  Civil protection relates to measures aimed at protecting populations and their environment against accidents and disasters. Civil protection agencies are legally responsible for handling matters involving criminal threats, catastrophes and hazards (e.g. fires, floods) national defence, surveillance, and radioactive contamination.
  • Disaster Management Centres which are responsible for coordinating precautionary actions and measures aiming at preventing catastrophes, managing and reducing their impacts, coordinating rescue operations, and performing disaster relief and economic assessments. Disaster Management Centres usually coordinate the actions of state institutions (e.g. authorities, emergency response units), associations and NGOs (e.g. volunteers) and citizens and private firms (called self-protection).
  • Emergency response units which are (for example) the police, fire brigades, ambulances, mountain rescue service or the Armed Forces.

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:

  • Office of the Styrian Government, Department for Protective Hydraulic Engineering and Soil Water Management
  • Federal Government of Lower Austria, Department for Fire and Civil Protection
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Water Management
  • Ministry of the Interior, Department II/4/a Disaster Management
  • Province Styria Disaster Management

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.

Service/ system concept

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:

  1. EO-based flood map information freely and readily available to the citizen,
  2. A professional data gateway accessible to disaster management centres and field emergency and response units

Historical flood data for a real-world identification (not based on models) and determination of flood risks

Space Added Value

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.

Product Benefits

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.

Product Features

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:

  • Data Acquisition
  • Data Storage
  • Data Management
  • Scientific Processing Facility
  • Cartographic Processing Facility
  • Cartographic API

FAAPS System Architecture

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:

  • via the FAAPS mobile application (on smartphones, handhelds)
  • via a browser based viewer (on desktop PCs, notebooks) or
  • via a GIS using the FAAPS web map service (on desktop PCs) thanks to the FAAPS professional gateway.

Key Issues

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:

  • There are no synoptic (covering entire provinces at one time) flood monitoring services currently available.
  • There is a lack of harmonization between the  formats of the information collected from different techniques (aerial survey, ground sensors, field survey) which makes derivation of flood information by emergency disaster staff rather cumbersome.
  • Airborne surveys for flood extent delineation are not possible in all weather conditions,
  • Quick provision of flood extent maps integrated with the real-time position of the user is currently not available.

Current Status

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.

Status Date

Updated: 19 March 2013 - Created: 15 February 2014