ZhiQiang Chen’s Remote Sensing Research Will Help First Responders


A massive two-mile-wide EF4 tornado (wind speeds from 166 – 200 miles per hour) hit Oklahoma City area on May 20, killing 24 men, women and children as it flattened homes, school buildings, farms and businesses. Just two years earlier, an EF5-tornado struck Joplin, Missouri taking 162 lives and incurring billions dollars of civil infrastructure and property losses. Dr. ZhiQiang Chen, SCE Assistant Professor in Civil and Computer Engineering, hopes the remote sensing and visual computing technologies he is developing will aid post-disaster rescue by providing real-time damage assessment for first responders at large-scale deadly disasters.Recently awarded funding through NASA’s EPSCoR program, Dr. Chen’s three-year research project is titled ‘High-level Understanding and Real-time Computing of Remotely-Sensed Very-High-Resolution (VHR) Images for Built Environment Monitoring and Disaster Assessment’. Dr. Chen and his student researchers will employ high-resolution imagery data covering the Joplin’s stricken area as a test bed to explore advanced image understanding methods that provide level-of-detail structural integrity and damage characterization for built objects. In the long run, Dr. Chen envisages that through integrating imagery data from space- and airborne platforms, very-low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, and ground-based crowdsourcing, a panoramic post-disaster knowledge system could be established in real-time that provides first responders unprecedented aids for rapid rescue and loss assessment.

Below are examples of NOAA images available from the Joplin disaster that will be utilized: an image of the swath of the damage in Joplin and an object-based image showing detailed damage characterizations.

Dr. Chen’s research is featured in this 41 Action News story.

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