Carter Center & Space4Good: Monitoring Conflict Zones for Good
This year at the 2020 Data for Peace & Security Conference in Den Haag, we met The Carter Center, which is a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that works on – among other things – resolving conflicts, strengthening democracy, and bolstering human rights across the globe.
We connected over remote sensing and geospatial analysis to monitor and support conflict resolution in war-torn regions. As the Carter team had an interest in using satellite earth observation for assessing the consequences of military conflict, specifically explosive weapon contamination, we proposed creative ways in how we could support them by providing more insight and transparency.
Over 2 months, Space4Good devised a proof of concept using change detection analysis to assess damage to buildings and neighborhoods as a proxy for remaining explosive weapons. Two districts in Syria were examined with the use of Optical Change Detection using Sentinel 2 data, and Radar multi-temporal change mapping using Sentinel 1 data.
Using optical artificial intelligence algorithms to identify buildings and building clusters in combination with pixel-based, pattern recognition methods - for filtering out seasonal fluctuations and noise - we were able to detect small scale changes during and after bombardment events. Our land use classifications further revealed the effects of the explosions on a large scale in both urban and rural settings. Further, multi-temporal maps around bombardment sites were developed using radar methodologies showing changes before and after the events across time.
Continued activities combining radar and optical data, such as NDVI or land use classification maps, will further enhance the accuracy of these solutions. In this way, together with the Carter Center team, we can even better understand the consequences of the conflict, urban damage, and growth for good with the goal of protecting lives on the ground and supporting peacebuilding activities.
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