Oct 19, 2017
Sonoma County residents will soon be able to view current aerial imagery (photos) of their properties within some burn areas. Right now we have aerial imagery of Coffey Park and Journey’s End Mobilehome Park.This was taken from an authorized drone controlled by law enforcement.
If you livewithin a burn area, we encourage you to look at your neighborhood and your property before you return (re-entry). This will help you understand the extent of damage at your home. These fires have been a traumatizing experience, and we understand that information is helpful in the grieving and rebuilding process.
The aerial imagery is available here: https://www.sonomasheriff.org/tubbscomplexlnu-fire-imagery. Sonoma County Sheriff, Santa Rosa Police, and Alameda County Sheriff partnered with several private companies to bring this vital information to Sonoma County residents. The technical details behind this collaborative effort are explained below.
Alameda and Sonoma Counties used modern drone technology and data collection in the North Bay fires for cross-agency coordination, evidence preservation, and to inform the public of neighborhood status.
Alameda County Sheriff Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) team, led by Commander Tom Madigan, was able to receive an emergency Certificate of Authorization (CoA) from the Federal Aviation Administration to be allowed to fly under a temporary flight restriction (TFR). The purpose of these flights was to collect data for Sonoma County management for disaster response. This team was the only drone team allowed to fly during this emergency. All other drone footage collected by media or private citizens was highly illegal. The agency continues to implore citizens to please ground their drones during this and other emergencies.
A major challenge for the drone team was the presence of many manned aircraft, such as Cal-Fire helicopters, in the area. The drones were limited to 100 foot flying altitude and had to land immediately upon other aircraft entering the area. This height restriction created significant challenges in the mapping process, as many more flights were needed to cover a large areas, such as the Coffey Park neighborhood where thousands of homes were burned. The result for that neighborhood alone was approximately 10,000 photos or 50 gigabytes of data.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office request to utilize the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office UAV Team was provided through mutual aid. The UAV Team was instrumental in assisting many aspects of the Sonoma County disaster efforts, relief efforts, and will continue to assist in our recovery efforts.
An example of the UAV Team efforts that contributed to the safety of our search and recovery efforts, was the ability to provide a temperature gauge or heat signature of what areas were safe to enter with Search and Rescue Teams (SAR) and their Canine (K-9) partners. This was instrumental in preventing injuries to SAR Personnel and Canines.
Also important, was the collaboration of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, and Santa Rosa Police Department to provide this technology to the residents of our county. As you view the links, please keep in mind that the area you’ll be viewing has been designated as the Coffey Park Area and Journey’s End Trailer Park. There are other structures, businesses, trailer parks and residences that have been devastated as well that are not inclusive to this viewing portal.
In addition, the Coffey Park Area is only one of many large residential areas that was devastated in Sonoma County. Looking forward, there is no guarantee that the Alameda County UAV Team will be tasks with similar imagery that has been represented in the attached hyperlink.
Through the process of photogrammetry, which uses overlapping photos to generate 2D and 3D data products, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office was able to map all of the Journey's End Mobilehome Park and Coffey park neighborhood at very high resolution (down to 1/2 inch per pixel of map). This was an immense effort by the team with dozens of flights and drone batteries, resulting in an unprecedented amount of information. The team was supported by donated technical assistance by Mapbox, Pix4D, and Hangar companies, as well as DJI who makes the drones themselves.
In addition, the Alameda team was able to experiment with a new method of taking quick panoramic photos of different locations, which was much faster than detailed mapping. These panoramics consist of the use of an app from a drone startup called Hangar photos in all directions, stitching them into a 360 view in the cloud, and made available within 20 minutes as a shareable link. This method proved incredibly useful for a rapid visual of different neighborhoods and will be transformative to multi-agency coordination moving forward.
Finally, the county agencies were able to visualize these maps for use by other agencies and for residents of neighborhoods. The team has created maps of Coffey Park neighborhood and Journey’s End Mobilehome Park with street and address overlays for easier home location.
A folder of different datasets will be available here for press at the links below, as well as www.sonomasheriff.org for links:
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