On March 22, 2014, a large landslide in Oso, Washington killed 43 people and destroyed dozens of homes. Heavy rainfall in the previous days and weeks had saturated the soil on a hillside over State Road 530 and the Stillaguamish River. This eventually triggered the slide, burying approximately 1 acre below in 30 to 70 feet of mud, soil, and rock debris.
Shortly after the mudslide, the Field Innovation Team (FIT) sent a team to support first-responders in finding innovative solutions to expedite recovery efforts. FIT is a non-profit organization that responds to crises, and also works on disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction. Although based in Utah, FIT has staff and volunteers across the country and around the world that can quickly respond to disasters. After the Oso mudslide, FIT used Reality Computing—capture, compute, and create—to develop and print a 3D surface model of the mudslide area, giving relief teams more understanding of the topography of the disaster.
FIT volunteers who traveled to the site began by meeting with the disaster management personnel at the local Incident Command Post (ICP) to discuss response and recovery needs and offer assistance for technology shortfalls. FIT learned that the disaster relief personnel needed better situational awareness of the mudslide terrain itself, which was partially inaccessible due to the debris piles and the flooding of the Stillaguamish River from the mudslide.
Aerial imagery of the valley from manned helicopter flights along with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) LiDAR data could have been obtained. But helicopter flights were expensive, and obtaining the LiDAR data would take two to four days. So FIT decided that using a digital camera attached to a drone was the quickest, most efficient way to capture data of the mudslide terrain. FIT worked with ICP to have Roboticists Without Borders (RWB) perform the flights. RWB is part of Texas A&M University’s Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue(CRASAR).
I was a member of this FIT Team for this disaster response in Oso Washington. Read more on how Reality Computing and innovative fast thinking using the latest in technology including UAS/ drones assisted first responders on the ground. What was amazing was we were able to use the 3D print and project up to date photos onto it using a portable handheld projector.