Workshop: Third Workshop on AI for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response

Damage Estimation and Localization from Sparse Aerial Imagery

Jeffrey Liu · Rene A Garcia Franceschini


Aerial images provide important situational awareness for responding to natural disasters such as hurricanes. They are well-suited for providing information for damage estimation and localization (DEL); i.e., characterizing the type and spatial extent of damage following a disaster. Despite recent advances in sensing and unmanned aerial systems technology, much of post-disaster aerial imagery is still taken by handheld DSLR cameras from small, manned, fixed-wing aircraft. However, these handheld cameras lack IMU information, and images are taken opportunistically post-event by operators. As such, DEL from such imagery is still a highly manual and time-consuming process. We propose an approach to both detect damage in aerial images and localize it in world coordinates. The approach is based on using structure from motion to relate image coordinates to world coordinates via a projective transformation, using class activation mapping to detect the extent of damage in an image, and applying the projective transformation to localize damage in world coordinates. We evaluate the performance of our approach on post-event data from the 2016 Louisiana floods, and find that our approach achieves a precision of 88%. Given this high precision using limited data, we argue that this approach is currently viable for fast and effective DEL from handheld aerial imagery for disaster response.