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OpenAerialMap: Open Drone Imagery for Humanitarian Projects

February 7, 2019

We built Fulcrum Community to support humanitarian response projects around the world, so organizations would have a platform for crowdsourcing with local volunteers and responders. For these sorts of projects, map imagery is a critical tool in getting an accurate, up-to-date picture of the reality on the ground.

In aftermath response, the most critical need is to understand damage extents and what infrastructure has survived, so response plans can be prioritized and directed appropriately. OpenAerialMap (OAM) is a hosting platform for openly licensed imagery for use in these sorts of projects. It provides an open commons for map imagery of all varieties — whether satellite, aerial, or drone. OpenAerialMap is funded and built by a number of partner organizations: Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Development Seed, Azavea, Stamen, Australian Government Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Humanitarian Innovation Fund, and Amazon Web Services.

Barangay Marasbaras Tacloban

With commercial drones now widely available, they’ve become fantastic tools for rapidly collecting imagery and OpenAerialMap provides a great way to share that imagery with the community. You can browse a global map of available data, view individual imagery sets, and see metadata such as date, resolution, file size, imagery provider, and sensor.

For response deployments using Fulcrum Community, you can also add OpenAerialMap datasets to your Fulcrum account as layers to use in the Fulcrum mobile app.

Using Fulcrum’s map layer feature, you can add OAM datasets using the “Tile XYZ” format. These layers also become available on the mobile app, so contributors on the ground doing damage assessment, for example, can have access to current, high-resolution data for reference. OAM also makes data available in WMTS, and integrates directly with the iD editor and JOSM OpenStreetMap editing tools to simplify tracing buildings, roads, and water bodies.

Fulcrum OAM Example

If you’re collecting imagery with a drone, you can also contribute your data into the commons on OAM to share with the wider humanitarian community. You can also contribute directly to the OpenAerialMap project (it’s open source!).

Pairing aerial imagery with Fulcrum Community makes a powerful combination for response activities. Take a look at the OpenAerialMap platform, browse what’s available, and make sure to contribute your next dataset!