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Eagle Vision IV Assists with the Flooding Response Efforts in the Carolina's

  • Published
  • By Capt. Roy Condrey
  • 169th Communications Flight
While Hurricane Jaoquin was lashing the Bahamas on 28 Sept., Airmen of the 169th Communications Flight Eagle Vision IV (EV4) Mobile Ground Satellite Station located here, began acquiring optical images of the U.S. East Coast from the SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 commercial high-resolution, imagery Earth observation satellites. 

Although Joaquin steered clear of the mainland U.S., another large storm system over the southeastern states drew tremendous moisture from the hurricane, resulting in catastrophic rain fall and flooding in South Carolina. 

Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, declared a state of emergency. The record-breaking flooding was responsible for a total of 19 deaths, 372 roads and bridge closings and 17 broken dams.  The flooding caused $1.2 billion in damages and President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration for the state.

EV4 supported the humanitarian assistance and flood disaster relief efforts by providing first responders with over 130 imagery products of the devastated areas.  First responders used the images to create a disaster response plan.  Planning included identifying the most logistically feasible routes into areas that needed assistance. This was performed by comparing pre and post-disaster images to identify any changes to infrastructure, such as damaged or destroyed buildings and roads.

EV4's Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Pete Wiedel, oversaw the operation and interfaced with the System Program Office regarding funding, personnel availability and customer requests. Senior Master Sgt. Eddie McManus and Tech. Sgt. Dennis McDougal were charged with reception of data on the Data Acquisition Segment (DAS), as well as maintenance issues that came up during the entire collection period. Master Sgt. Troy Wilkerson was responsible for the processing and dissemination of the imagery to multiple customers such as; EVR2EST, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and S.C. Joint Operations Centers (JOC).

EV4 has covered every hurricane and natural disaster on the East Coast since 2003.  Due to their experience, they knew that they would lose optical visibility due to the heavy cloud cover.  Following their hurricane response checklist, they submitted a request for radar images from RadarSat-2 and TerraSar-X.  Both satellites were chosen because images are acquired by measuring radar wave return times and patterns which are unaffected by cloud cover. 

After the clouds cleared, the EV4 team utilized the 0.5 meter capabilities of the Astrium-Geo Pleiades satellite constellation.  Pleiades consists of two satellites:  Pléiades 1A and Pléiades 1B which operate as a constellation in the same orbit, phased 180° apart. The identical twin satellites deliver very-high-resolution, optical data products in record time and offer daily revisit capability to any point on the globe. The Pléiades constellation allows EV4 to obtain data in double-quick time.

EV4 is one of five DoD-deployable, commercial-satellite ground stations in the world. They provide customers with commercial satellite imagery of locations within their 1,300-mile visibility circle, reaching as far as Canada, South America, Texas and the mid-Atlantic Ocean. Their primary mission is to disseminate imagery to FEMA, USGS and various other government agencies during natural disasters. EV4 can also be used to support mission planning, time-critical targeting and non-war related operations.

Because Eagle Vision has the capability to quickly acquire near real-time, unclassified satellite imagery, they are highly sought after and utilized during most natural disasters within their visibility circle. The EV teams most often provide images for events such as fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. They have supported first responders' efforts during Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes in Haiti and Super Storm Sandy. Other than hurricanes, these events usually occur quickly and with no warning; therefore bringing with it the necessity for a quick reaction force.