Better Mapping of Human Settlements to Support Crisis Management Operations

When disaster strikes remote parts of the world, knowing the area’s population and density is crucial for effective humanitarian operations. And for the first time, the Global Human Settlements Layer (GHSL), developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in collaboration with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation Ground Segment Department (EOP-G), will provide this information on a global scale.

This breakthrough followed the creation of new advanced algorithms, developed by the JRC, that allow automatic analysis of medium resolution data obtained from European satellites. Initial tests of the African continent’s surface verified that the combined use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) permit quick and accurate mapping of built-up areas around the world. The test successfully classified about 4 billion images related to 270 scenes pertaining to the ESA’s ENVISAT ASAR sensor.

According to a report distributed by the JRC, “…the algorithms allow massive datasets to be processed more efficiently and rapidly, making it possible to monitor the changes in human settlements regularly and equally importantly, to collect the same information from heterogeneous satellite data. This can help to reduce risks in areas that experience recurrent disasters and to focus post-disaster humanitarian interventions on the most likely populated places in disaster affected countries and regions.”

The GHSL’s primary function is to provide quick damage analysis over populated places, leading to improvements in emergency rescue and humanitarian relief operations, according to the JRC.

For more information on the European Commission’s breakthrough, read the full article: