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How Terrabotics Became the First Company to Report the Number of Damaged Homes in Fort McMurray

By the morning of Friday, May 6, the urban service area of Fort McMurray, Alberta, had been engulfed in a wildfire for four days, resulting in the displacement of over 88,000 residents.

That’s when, after speaking with his clients, Dan Plant of Terrabotics called us at his wits’ end. When the Terrabotics Commercial Director and Head of Sales spoke to our Customer Experience (CX) team, it was clear he needed high-quality imagery of Fort Mac, and he needed it immediately.

As a quickly growing startup with cutting-edge technology for rapid, high-precision 3D terrain mapping, Terrabotics doesn’t have time to wade through bureaucracy. Dan needed to get his analysis of the Fort McMurray wildfire destruction to his strategic customers, leading insurance and energy companies, fast.

At first, Dan had contacted the standard list of leading satellite operators — several of which were more interested in talking about emergency tasking fees and licensing terms — to obtain up-to-date imagery of the Fort McMurray wildfire. As he explained to our team, he had “been waiting on others for far too long. Some operators in Europe had already closed for the weekend. We have been developing a reputation for delivering excellent service and quality products. I didn’t want to let our clients down.”

After struggling to get timely answers from other providers, Dan contacted UrtheCast’s CX team. Because UrtheCast had already been monitoring the area, our team was able to task our Deimos-2 satellite and attain the imagery Dan needed within five hours.

“The Deimos-2 image was perfect for our needs — we were the first to report the number of damaged homes in the area thanks to your rapid delivery,” Dan told us in an email to our CX team. “I was really impressed that we were able to request, task, receive (the image), process the change detection map, and deliver to our customers within five hours. This is something that simply would not have been possible until recently. With new, forward-thinking operators like UrtheCast, the future of satellite imaging is already here.”
Take a look at results below, showing the damaged areas identified with Terrabotics’ automated change detection algorithms. Because of this rapid service, Terrabotics became the first company to report the number of damaged Fort McMurray structures in the area to the insurance companies, which in return, helped to speed up the insurance claims process for Fort Mac residents. “Together with UrtheCast, we were so fast, that some of our customers almost didn’t believe our numbers,” says Dan. “Our rapid mapping was described by one client as an ‘invaluable tool considering the scope and nature of the events in Fort McMurray.’”


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As we continue to monitor other areas of the world for Terrabotics, what’s increasingly clear is the necessity for high-quality data that’s delivered within hours, not days or weeks. Each time we’re able bring organizations the imagery they need, when they need it, we get one step closer to democratizing the EO industry.

“I’m still blown away that we were able to get the image within hours of submitting a request,” he explains. “The most impressive part though, was that licensing terms and shapefiles didn’t interfere with the emergency situation. UrtheCast trusted us at Terrabotics and gave us the entire image for the Wood Buffalo region because of the critical nature of the project. This is the way of the future.”

To learn more about the Fort McMurray wildfire, and to see more UrtheCast images of the area, visit our gallery.

Relief donations are being accepted by the Red Cross, here.

Subscribe to the UrtheCast Newsletter for updates and imagery.



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