The Nepal Earthquake – What We Can Do As Remote Sensing & Mapping Experts

The devastating earthquake that recently hit Nepal has personal relevance to me as I have been to Kathmandu twice and it is horrifying to see distinct places of the city reduced to utter rubble. Furthermore, I have a close friend and many professional contacts in Nepal, who spent their nights out in the open. We hope to see Kathmandu and Nepal rebuild and rise up again soon.

As relief efforts are in full swing on the ground, here are some significant volunteer contributions we can make as remote sensing and mapping experts. If you know of any further resources or near-real-time applications for such skills, please mention in the comments.


OpenStreetMap (OSM) and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOTOSM) are leading an effort to identify and map the earthquake damages. They have divided the enormous task into several sub-tasks, explained clearly on the webpage. Furthermore, HOTOSM have formally requested that anyone with FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) experience in automatic image classification and feature extraction should contact on HOTOSM email directly. Links below:


DigitalGlobe (the company that owns QuickBird, GeoEye, and WorldView series of satellites) has its own crowd-sourcing image analysis platform that is activated in cases of disasters. You can identify and map damaged locations and building using this platform which uses DigitalGlobe’s imagery:

Digital Globe Imagery:

DigitalGlobe has made available imagery regarding the Nepal earthquake publicly for analysis. Get the imagery here:
Username: nepal
Password: forcrisis​

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About WQ

I received my PhD (2013) in Remote Sensing, Earth and Space Science at the Dept. of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA, under a Fulbright fellowship. Currently, I'm an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Space Science at Institute of Space Technology (IST), Islamabad, Pakistan, where I have been a founding member of the Geospatial Research & Education Lab (GREL). My general expertise is in Remote Sensing where I have worked with various remote sensing datasets through my career, while for my PhD thesis I specifically worked on Remote Sensing using SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and Oceanography, working extensively on development of techniques to measure ocean surface currents from space-borne SAR intensity images and interferometric data. My research interests are: Remote sensing, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery and interferometric data processing & analysis, Visible/Infrared/High-resolution satellite image processing & analysis, Oceanography, Earth system study and modelling, LIDAR data processing and analysis, Scientific programming. I am a reviewer for IEEE Transactions on Geoscience & Remote Sensing, Forest Ecosystems, GIScience & Remote Sensing, Journal of African Earth Sciences, and Italian Journal of Agronomy. I am an alumnus of Pakistan National Physics Talent Contest (NPTC), an alumnus of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, a Fulbright alumnus, and the Pakistan National Point of Contact for Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC). I was an invited speaker at the TEDxIslamabad event held in Nov., 2014. I've served as mentor in the NASA International Space App Challenge Islamabad events in April 2015 and April 2016.

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