Did you know the United Nations (UN) has a space fleet ready for disasters? The UN doesn’t really run the constellation, but there’s a signed charter, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, which has about 23 members involved with it. Some United States organizations are members, such as DigitalGlobe (hence Tomnod), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and United States Geological Survey (USGS).
These members provide the parts of a bigger constellation of imaging satellites (Skynews say 25). Also, according to Skynews: The Charter (you can read it here) was activated by the UN and one of its offices on 10 November in response to the Haiyan super typhoon. Activation in this case means an “Authorized User” can submit a request for satellite coverage of an impending or current disaster. This request is verified by other people and eventually, the “appropriate” member space agency is tasked. Imagery is then collected of the disaster-affected area. Skynews say 10 satellites were tasked by the Charter.
UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT), a sub-branch of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is the one who coordinates all the images collected from the satellites and gets them to the correct organizations and people (they are acting as collection managers).
The UN seem to have reacted slowly to Haiyan, but perhaps there are key conditions that need to be fulfilled for this well-known bureaucracy to get moving. You can follow them on Twitter @DisastersChart.
- Satellites tasked for Haiyan relief (skynews.com.au)
- Satellite view of typhoon devastation (rappler.com)
- UN tasks imaging satellites for âYolandaâ relief (technology.inquirer.net)