On 4 October, a team from the aid organisation I.S.A.R. Germany (International Search and Rescue) met up with a representative from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in Palu, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The region had been hit by a severe earthquake and a tsunami six days earlier. Other earthquakes followed over subsequent days. The disaster relief workers from I.S.A.R. and DLR are helping the local people by building a drinking water treatment plant and providing an emergency power generator. This on-the-ground experience helps DLR to further develop technological concepts for better crisis and disaster management in future.
"The levels of suffering and damage are devastating, as the region around Palu was hit by several major natural disasters at the same time. We can help the local people here by providing free drinking water in order to ease their suffering a little," says Steven Bayer, Security Researcher at the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems, who is also an integral member of the I.S.A.R. operations team on the ground and the leader of the advance team. DLR has been working closely with the aid organisation since 2016. Among other things, it is developing the camera system MACS (Modular Aerial Camera System) specially for use on unmanned aircraft, in order to assist with the search for people buried under rubble and to provide a quick overview of damage to infrastructure in crisis-struck regions.
Technologies such as autonomously flying optical reconnaissance systems can only provide quick and effective disaster relief if they are developed based on real-life scenarios. Only so much can be achieved by simulations. By deploying this technology in Indonesia, DLR-researcher Bayer is able not only to support the I.S.A.R. team, but also to gain insights into the processes, conditions and requirements of an actual relief mission. This will supplement existing knowledge with valuable practical information. The DLR researchers at the Institute of Optical Sensor Systems will evaluate this data and integrate it into the development of such technologies.
After 11 days on the ground, Steven Bayer returned to Berlin on 11 October, thus concluding the second successful collaborative operation between DLR and I.S.A.R. in a disaster area. Their first joint endeavour took place in October 2017, following the severe earthquake that struck Mexico.