The Beirut Explosion: UAV Mapping as a First Step to Recovery

When an ammonium nitrate stockpile totalling over 2,000 tonnes blew up in August 2020, the Beirut capital of Lebanon was rocked by a huge explosion. More than 200 people lost their lives and a further 300,000 people were displaced, as buildings were damaged as far as 5km away from the blast site. The scale of the devastation was so extreme that it was difficult to know where to begin. International efforts started immediately, with humanitarian aid ranging from medical support to clearing debris. With employee roots in Lebanon, the team at Augment felt the irresistible urge to go and help. They decided to assess the damage and provide the resulting data as an open-access resource for any group involved in the recovery effort. But the question was: how?

With city access difficult, an aerial map rapidly become the most realistic alternative since it could be created more quickly than a terrestrially scanned map. An aerial map would also provide more information about the status of buildings and their surroundings. The plan took shape to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or ‘drones’) to gather images of the city, and then process the data using photogrammetry software that could merge the imagery to create a 3D point cloud. The resulting model could then be used to inspect and measure the damage and subsequently determine where to begin with rebuilding.

Read more in GIM International

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