Advanced cloud-based environment to support immediate disaster response

The International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ is an international agreement among space agencies to support the immediate disaster response phase with satellite data and information. This is organized with Charter activations that are triggered by Authorized Users. Since its inception in 2000, it has supported 723 activations in 129 countries worldwide.

In support to the International Charter, a tool, performing workflow and information management, is used during the operational process of activations. Custom implemented and maintained by ESA since 2010, the “Charter Operations System 2nd generation” (COS-2) provides accurate information about Charter activations. COS-2 is dedicated to Charter members and partners, providing a dedicated interface according to the operational role of the user, from the entering of the activation request up to the preparation of the final report. In particular, it helps the Charter Project Manager (PM) to order, make a preliminary assessment of the satellite images (based on preview images) and deliver Earth Observation (EO) data in the disaster response phase. It provides dashboards to monitor activations and displays metadata, quick looks and footprints of the EO data. COS-2 has been made available for operations starting at the beginning of 2015 and since then it has been used to support all of the Charter activations.

To better support Charter PMs and Value Adders (VA) in the context of activations, COS-2 has been augmented with a processing environment, i.e., a suite of on-line EO-based services that is called the ESA Charter Mapper. It is able to access and display EO data, perform visual analysis, apply GIS functionalities and to perform EO-based processing to extract geo-information from imagery. The Charter Mapper is a Cloud based service originated by ESA and implemented by an industrial team composed of Terradue (Italy) and eversis (Poland).


ESA Charter Mapper Geobrowser showing the available datasets of one of the Charter activations.


Facilitated information extraction amid an emergency activation

Since August 2021, the ESA Charter Mapper is available to support operations. It is intended to ease access and use of the EO data during an activation. EO data received from the Charter members and partners through COS-2 are automatically ingested and transformed as full-resolution browse EO images. The PMs and VAs can browse imagery, filter and select the EO data of interest, analyse and process them online with EO-based services and toolboxes. They can use the ESA Charter Mapper to create ad-hoc composites of different spectral bands to optimize the signal to the type of hazards and to observe changes across time as the activation develops.

Automated processing executed in the background whenever new EO data is provided, allows PMs and VAs to immediately operate pre-processed data, reducing their workload. However, the generation of information products (Value-Added Products) requires supervision from experts and remains the responsibility of the VAs and PMs.

Result of the amplitude-coherence processing service using Sentinel-1 data created on the ESA Charter Mapper. Following the landfall of Tropical Storm Megi over the Philippines on 10 April 2022 the Charter was triggered by the United Nations on 13 April as Activation 756. The image shows the product generated using two pairs of Sentinel-1 SLC data before the emergency


Result of the amplitude-coherence processing service using Sentinel-1 data created on the ESA Charter Mapper with a second product over the same area as in figure above. The image to the bottom is showing the product created using one pair acquired 12 days apart after the event. The storm particularly affected areas such as the region of Baybay city in the bottom left corner of these images where a landslide can be detected in the post-event product as seen with the orange feature that does show up in figure above. Large dark patches are visible to the right of the product as a result of the large plain flooding affecting that area


Extract from previous figure including the colour key describing the image channels of the products i.e. in Red the interferometric correlation between two Sentinel-1 SLC images and in Green the average amplitude between the two images of the product


The Geobrowser of the ESA Charter Mapper showing the slider (or “Compare Layers”) function and illustrating the evolution in time of the landslide that hit the Baybay area in the Philippines in the context of Charter activation 756 in April 2022. The left layer shows the situation after a landslide over the Pagbangana river on 17 april 2022 as seen by Pléiades data provided by CNES and the right layer shows the area prior to the landslide with a WorldView image provided by USGS. The data were acquired in the context of Activation 756 that was triggered by the United Nations on 13 April 2022


The underlying technology supporting the on-line processing environment developed by Terradue for the Charter is based on a standardized way to catalog and expose multi-source geospatial data that is called STAC (spatio-temporal asset catalog) and is using the Cloud Optimized Geotiff (COG) format to manage geospatial  data in a fluid and efficient fashion.

The idea of an on-line processing environment finds its origin in 2017. The Charter started a reflection about a complete on-line processing environment that would ease access and use of EO data during Charter operations, considering also the strong increase of EO data provided for each activation (often hundreds of images) by the Charter member agencies. Back in 2017, ESA proposed a prototype of a Processing Environment with basic online services, like the visualization and screening of full-resolution EO data. Based on ESA’s proposition, the Charter defined the guidelines for exploiting such capability and all the procedures required from testing to operations. Other Charter members are also taking the initiative and are proposing other Processing Environments.

Are you attending LPS22 in Bonn? Would you like to find out more about the current International Collaboration to better understand risks using EO?

Don’t miss the scientific session International Collaboration to better understand risks using satellite EO (GEO, CEOS, etc.), taking place on Wednesday 25, 8:30-10:10, Room H2-17.




Featured video : Emmanuel Mathot – EO specialist working with Terradue – is presenting the cloud native technologies used to implement the ESA Charter Mapper. Contains material taken from a Charter video produced by DLR