Why Local Governments Need SAR

Where SAR can make the big impact, your hometown.

A village, town, county, planning district commission, all have more responsibility and role in our daily lives than national governments. Yet, when it comes to putting data in their hands - where it is needed most, they are often behind.

When a bridge fails in a rural area it can cause entrapment of people unable to commute or reach vital services through the single route that structure was a key part of, and in the worst case - loss of life. The miserable blame game inevitably follows. The bridge was actually owned by the regional government who rarely inspected something so marginal. They are responsible for knowing its condition. Legally, yes these structures often have owners far removed from the locality. However - ultimately, the impact they have on life is the responsibility of the locality.

A bridge is a visible, typical example, but the infrastructure that runs a town or county is often far more diverse. From larger structures such as airports, schools, clinics, or police stations to the smaller drainage structures that prevent entire neighbourhoods from flooding.

SAR (synthetic aperture radar) has struggled to get into the hands of the person closest to the problems it addresses since its inception. Beginning as a military intelligence tool in the Cold War, SAR belongs to hordes of analysts. Reaching commercialisation the tech went first to large oil and gas extraction companies, not local engineering firms. Even national governments can take months or years, to figure out the role of this data set. Largely due to the fact that SAR data crosses many different areas of use. It’s this paradigm that emerges for any common good - if everyone can use it, then no one can use it?

In a local government, where the ecosystem of decision making can be complex, it has the advantage of being both closest to the problem and being the most direct beneficiary. A town manager who can see from his or her smartphone after a large storm if all of their schools and drainage systems are stable has the ability to make better-informed decisions. SAR has the potential to close the data gap.

Often the reason a local official isn’t getting constant data flow from all of their assets is simple - it’s costly and complicated to deploy wide IoT (Internet of things) sensors, fly drones, or order aerial surveys. With SAR in orbit, and Ovela delivering SAR-as-a-service we can empower local leaders in a cost effective, simple to understand format.

Local governments are as diverse as their community. No one approach or solution will ever benefit all of them. More actionable data in their hands can empower and enable their growth and stability more effectively than any other single measure. It’s our job as tech companies, local engineering firms, and change makers to reach our communities and bring SAR to where it can be the most help.

A SAR tool for Local GIS Users

One of the many unsung heroes of daily life is the mapping (GIS) wizard of every local government. Often they are the ones tasked with producing the maps and data products used by town councils and management teams. They are dedicated, hard-working professionals who largely go unseen directly, but their work is everywhere. From zoning and parcels maps to emergency routing and services they are a backbone to every community. How can we provide InSAR (interferometric SAR) data to them in a way that doesn’t add more burden to their work, but gives them a powerful data tool with an ease of use?

The answer may lie in web mapping services (WMS) which enable a spatial system processing SAR data - such as Ovela - to publish an easy to use real-time data stream to the local GIS system. Of course, this requires that they are using some form of a spatial server, such as ArcServer/ArcOnline or MapInfo. These can be easily configured to ingest the data service, enabling the local GIS user to compile and create data dashboards with the SAR data!

  • When you fuse together a water line distribution map layer with a deformation service you can predict water main failures and find leaks

  • Connecting land subsidence insight with a zoning and special use mapping process allows planners to know where the land can and cannot handle certain types of structures - beyond the base line soil composition and geology.

  • Knowing public structures are stabile and safe can build public trust in a citizen web portal.

  • Emergency evacuation routes can be adjusted in real time with data on how key bridges and roads have survived seismic, hurricane, and landslide activity.

The uses are wide and the integrator with the talent to make the impact is in an office down the hall in your local county administration building, buy him or her a coffee and give them a high five from us for all they do!

Carl Pucci