Discover Your Island

The Island University Uses Unmanned Aerial Systems to Map Damage Done to Holiday Beach

October 06, 2017

holidaybeach-harvey.jpg

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – With many parts of South Texas still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Department of Engineering and Computing Sciences Dr. Jinha Jung saw it necessary to map Holiday Beach, which is located eight miles north of Rockport. Data was collected using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) just two weeks after Harvey made landfall to visualize how much damage was done to the beach and that data is now available for the public to view.

“The goal was to see if we can use UAS to assist first responders after natural disasters,” said Jung. “Disaster sites are not easily accessible due to debris and other obstacles, so we’re hoping that collecting ultra-high-resolution aerial maps from UAS can significantly help.”

The data collected from Holiday Beach was used to create an ultra-high resolution ortho-mosaic image, or map, and is available on the Island University website. Similar to Google maps, a mouse wheel can be used to zoom and specific areas can be examined more thoroughly by clicking and dragging.

“We hope with this technology, we can help those who had to evacuate from their homes,” said Jung. “For example, we created a 3D model of a house that was severely damaged by Harvey. We uploaded it, and now you can look at the damage from any computer and we can now show homeowners the state of their houses right after the damage has been done.”

Jung says these types of maps can also effectively help in natural disasters by determining areas that need immediate support, estimate required amounts of resource and recovery time for early planning and can help first-responders get familiarized with the disaster site before arriving for safety reasons.

 “We will keep exploring potential uses of UAS technology for disaster response applications,” said Jung. “UAS is a perfect platform to provide ultra-high-resolution geospatial data with short preparation time. It’s a perfect tool for disaster response application.”

According to CNN, the idea to use UAS for natural disasters and to assist first responders has been talked about since 2013 and has been tested by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as the Oklahoma-based drone company Fireflight. Organizations such as NASA and Fireflight have proven that UAS have been shown to be a critical asset when it comes to wildfires, which gives a higher probability for them to be an asset for other natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Jung received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Science from Seoul National University, Korea. He received his Ph.D. in Geomatics and Civil Engineering at Purdue University. Jung came to the Island University in 2014 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering where he researches advanced remote sensing data analysis. He specializes in hyperspectral sensors that record continuous electromagnetic spectrums and LiDAR.

Jung, along with members of his lab, is currently working on integrating hyperspectral sensors into UAS which will allow the user to detect things that the naked eye can’t.

“If we work hard, we may have more exciting results in the near future,” he says.