NGA satellite images aid tsunami relief

Within hours of the tsunami that struck in the Indian Ocean late last month, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency received requests for assistance in using satellite imagery to assess the damage.

'We take requests from lead federal agencies, such as the State Department, the Pacific Command or other federal agencies that need information. They provide the information to whomever they deem appropriate,' said Dave Burpee, chief of public affairs for NGA.

The agency is using its ClearView contractors, through which it buys commercial satellite services, to provide the images. 'We're buying with an unrestricted license; we can give them to anybody,' he said.

The agency can generate topographic-style images that show where damage is heaviest, with bridges washed out and no buildings standing. It can also pinpoint areas of moderate or light damage. These gradations make it easier for relief organizations to plan their actions.

NASA has provided similar images from its satellites.

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