Quebec City-based Geosapiens has received almost $300,000 from the Canadian Space Agency to fund its E-NUNDATION project which integrates optical and radar satellite imagery data to identify flood zones and map flooding in nearly real time.
The project is conducted in partnership with professors Karem Chokmani and Saeid Homayouni of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS). It’s part of the CSA smartEarth initiative, one of 21 Canadian satellite observation projects to receive funding from the program.
Costs from flood damage are expected to triple by 2030 due to climate change, so technology that predicts flooding risk will be increasingly important to preemptively mitigate some of the impacts and costs.
How E-NUNDATION works
“Our models are based on hydraulic and hydrological modelling. We integrate our models in the web-based solution,” said Hachem Agili, Geosapiens’ CEO and co-founder, in an interview with SustainableBiz. “We give access to our solutions to our clients including municipalities, insurance companies and also citizens to be more prepared to face the flooding risk and to better manage this risk.”
Agili holds an engineering degree in telecommunications from the Higher School of Communication of Tunis and a master’s degree in geomatics from Université Laval, as well as a doctorate of philosophy in water science at INRS.
The data could also be used by federal and provincial governments as well as emergency first responders. For insurance companies, the solution would be particularly useful in assessing risks associated with their client portfolios.
Clients could use the info in the E-NUNDATION solution to, for example, take mitigation or protective actions such as “moving their cars, setting up sandbags or water barriers and emptying basements,” according to Agili. “The goal is to be more proactive in the flood response.”
Geosapiens plans to use the CSA funding to integrate remote sensing data, which he calls “a very powerful tool” in terms of its scale, to better model the flood risk particularly in real-time situations. The company will use raster imagery from the CSA’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission, three identical earth observation satellites launched in June 2019.
Agili said the company will be able to use the RADARSAT data to develop an algorithm to predict factors like water extent, water depth as well as the impact on buildings and people.
E-NUNDATION and beyond
This project has a roadmap that ends in the first quarter of 2024. Currently, there are free demonstrations of the platform available on its website.
It’s not the only application Geosapiens is working on. There’s also work progressing on a hydraulic flood model for all of Canada.
“The goal is to cover the whole (of) Canada by the beginning of 2023,” Agili said. “So we will have a global coverage for the whole country with our maps, and it will be the most accurate modeling in Canada, especially for the undersea.”
Eventually, it is also planned to provide coverage across the U.S. and internationally.
In 2017, Geosapiens grew out of the INRS research team specializing in flood risk and management after developing its first flood risk management prototype, GARI, a French acronym for GARI Gestion et Analyse du Risque d’inondation/Flood Risk Management and Analysis.
Specifically, it was developed by the Environmental and Nordic Remote Sensing Group of INRS. A 2018 paper co-authored by Chokmai and published in the Geophysical Research Abstracts stated, “…one of the strengths of GARI is that it allows estimations of the level of risk and the potential damages associated with theoretical, anticipated or ongoing flooding events.”
Chokmani is the scientific head of the INRS’ Laboratory for Environmental Remote Sensing by Drone and its Environmental and Northern Remote Sensing Laboratory. Homayouni, meanwhile, is involved with the latter lab and his specialties are listed as “environmental remote sensing and geomatics.”
Geosapiens and Hydro Météo
Agili sang the praises of the current partnership, stating the two organizations have “complementary expertise.” Future projects from Geosapiens will continue to operate via this collaboration.
Last September, Hydro Météo, Quebec’s hydrometeorological forecasting service, announced a partnership with Geosapiens to distribute the E-NUNDATION platform to Quebec municipalities, integrated with some of Météo’s data. The collaboration means the platform will come equipped with the cartographic display of Météo’s hydrological projections, as well as the detail of possible consequences on the area up to seven days ahead.
The partnership is a result of research and pilot project execution in conjunction with several Quebec municipalities, including the City of Rigaud and towns in the Joliette region.
The INRS was founded in 1969 and is ranked first for research intensity in Québec. It is composed of four interdisciplinary research and training centres in Québec City, Montréal, Laval and Varennes. The university is made up of more than 1,500 students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members and staff.
The complete list of CSA smartEarth-funded projects can be found here.