This Risk Manager Put Critical CAT Data at the Industry’s Fingertips
Technology to control the weather remains deep in the realm of science fiction. But new technology to track the effects of severe weather, in great detail, is very much reality.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has been conducting highly detailed aerial mapping across the country for several years. In 2015, after a cluster of nine tornadoes struck in and around Coal City, Ill., the mapping capabilities were used to detail the storm damage. Since then the effort has been expanded and formalized into the Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC).
Ryan Bank, managing director of GIC, led the creation of the consortium behind the center, including Vexcel Imaging, a global aerial imaging company, and Esri, a worldwide provider of software for mapping and spatial analytics. GIC came of age in 2017 when it was able to shoot, process and send to constituents 360-degree, three-dimensional, survey-grade maps of the damage wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
“The first full-scale use was for Harvey,” said Bank. “We were able to process and deliver the images 24-hours after wheels down on the collections flights. We were then deployed for Irma and Maria, as well as the wildfires in California.”
GIC has a fleet of 150 contract aircrafts on call, mostly twin-engine turboprops. They are fitted with cameras worth $1.5 million each. “NICB is in every command center in the country,” said Bank. “We fly before the roadblocks are lifted.”
Beyond the ultra-high-resolution cameras, GIC uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine damage. For comparison, maps used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster planning are accurate to within 10 feet. The GIC maps have a granularity of 7.5 centimeters.
“This changes things,” said Bank. He said commercial underwriters and government agencies now have much better information to work off of in underwriting or providing aid.
For example, two identical adjacent homes may appear on maps as similar risks, but the foundation of one may be five feet higher. That makes it a lower flood risk.
“NICB is in every command center in the country. We fly before the roadblocks are lifted.” — Ryan Bank, managing director, Geospatial Intelligence Center, National Insurance Crime Bureau
“This drastically reduced the time needed to collect, process and produce imagery after a catastrophic event,” said Alexander Martonik, industry specialist for financial services and insurance at Esri. “Led by Ryan, the coalition acquired and published high-resolution imagery for nearly 24,000 square miles across Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and California, leveraging tools from us and Vexcel.”
Martonik detailed that “the coalition rapidly processed and published 100 terabytes of source data from aerial imagery, providing key context to stakeholders in the days after the [events]. To put this in perspective, using traditional workflows, it could take weeks or even months to process this data and create a set of orthophoto mosaics,” a seamless aerial view over wide geographic areas. &