Seeing through the smoke with Near-infrared imagery

We collected and published thousands of square kilometers of imagery over the California wildfires last week. As is often the case with wildfire imagery, some areas were still in heavy smoke cover when we flew. But because we collect in the near-infrared (NIR) band along with traditional RGB, there is still a great deal of utility in the imagery for understanding damage to structures in the affected areas. Further, with some dynamic range processing, it is also possible to see a lot of detail that would otherwise be lost in the smoke. Both of these image types are available as distinct layers in our Esri based web viewer.

The image featured at the top of this post is an example of NIR imagery providing a good amount of detail for a property that would otherwise be nearly completely occluded with smoke. The same property is shown here in its original state, side by side with the version after dynamic range processing.

Here is another example with a heavier layer of smoke, along with the same near-infrared image. Although the NiR image may not look like a traditional RGB image you are used to, the information gleaned from it can help first responders make faster, more informed decisions in planning and logistics.

California Fires Update for August 25

The GIC remains activated to Level 2 – Partial Activation for this event, with aerial imaging continuing today over Monterey County. Here are the details for todays update:

CZU Complex – Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties – imagery collected yesterday now published to GIC platforms

Walbridge Fire РSonoma County Рcollected yesterday; imagery is shipping, will be processed late tonight, and available tomorrow morning

Carmel/River Fires – Monterey County –¬† targeted for collection today

All imagery collected so far for this catastrophe is nadir 10cm resolution acquired with UltraCam Falcon.

Areas of Interest with Completed Flight Lines

California Fires Update for August 23

Firefighters continue to battle blazes across central and northern California. Two of the fires burning in California now rank among the top three ever recorded in the state. More than 1,500 square miles have burned. Over 1,000 homes have been destroyed. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for much of the hardest hit areas through Monday for dry thunderstorms.

More imagery from the Fires is being published today as we continue to fly and collect. We understand how important timely access to this imagery is. Please reach out if you need access.

The cell phone photos below taken by the crew collecting the imagery are pretty telling. That’s some dense smoke right there, along with the dramatic shot of the fires burning off the wing 2000 feet down.