Labiak envisions that while flying above a disaster scene, scientists would collect the LiDAR data and then his processing tool would use the data to produce a damage assessment map for disaster management workers. “The ultimate goal is that an emergency will happen, we acquire airborne data, and then within a few hours, we are able to extract the relevant information, map it, and get it to people on the ground to show what is damaged and what is not,” says Labiak, who works with CIS Professor Jan van Aardt.
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This year Labiak discovered the less romantic side of scientific research as he spent hours analyzing data that combined high resolution Wildfire Airborne Sensor Program imagery collected simultaneously with LiDAR data. The grueling process of attempting to discern buildings from vegetation in one small section around Haiti’s National Palace, however, paid off. Labiak has come up with an important and useful tool that can provide a building map as well as an initial damage assessment. He presented his findings at the International Society for Optics and Photonics: Defense Security and Sensing Conference in April.
So far, the tool still requires a person to manipulate the data. “The tool is designed to be used in an operational setting, and hopefully will be helpful to disaster managers,” he says. “Eventually, the idea is to get it done pretty quickly and with as little human involvement as possible.”