VIDEO: FLYING FOR FIRST RESPONDERS
Paul Lewis discusses ASPECT, an airborne suite of sensors that provides critical data in emergencies, including the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In 2001 the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT) Program became the United States only civil 24/7 operational airborne chemical, radiological, and situational awareness reporting capability. The ASPECT model of operation combines an airborne operational remote sensing suite with a research and development support team to provide essential situational awareness information to first responders and their local, state and federal lead agencies in accordance with the National Contingency Plan and EPA’s responsibility under Emergency Support Function 10 of the National Response Plan.
The ASPECT aircraft was deployed to Gulfport, Mississippi to provide airborne remotely sensed air monitoring and situational awareness data and products in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster. Flying over 75 missions that included more than 250 hours of flight operation, ASPECT’s initial mission responsibility was to provide air-quality monitoring (i.e., identification of vapor species) during various oil burning operations. The ASPECT airborne wide-area infrared remote sensing spectral data was used to evaluate the hazard potential of vapors being produced from open-water oil burns near the Deepwater Horizon rig site. Later, it was used to aid in the identification of surface oil that could reach beaches and wetland areas.
In this video, Paul Lewis describes the instrumentation on ASPECT and how the various imagers and sensors are used to respond to disasters in near real time.
Lewis is program manager and scientist for the ASPECT Research and Development Program at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. He was interviewed at SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing 2011.
Wednesday, July 13, 2010, CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. Correspondent Ines Ferre interviewed Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) who fought to keep the EPA’s ASPECT Aircraft flying. ASPECT (Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology) is the Nation’s only 24/7 airborne emergency response chemical and radiological mapping program. Dr. Robert Kroutil, the team’s lead scientist, figured out how to reprogram ASPECT’s software to ensure that it detect the difference between oil, oil sheen, algae blooms, and turbulent water. From the air, algae and oil look similar. ASPECT’s new capability to detect oil makes the aircraft invaluable to the efforts surrounding the environmental disaster that BP created on April 20, 2010.
Prior to Rep. Taylor’s leadership in organizing the response efforts for Mississippi, the response was characterized as playing Marco Polo in the Gulf like a bunch of headless chickens.
Leveraging his 13 years in the U.S. Coast Guard where he lead search and rescue efforts and his leadership in the Katrina aftermath, Rep. Taylor’s expertise has ensured that the ASPECT team remain in the Gulf and be tasked with flying the Mississippi Gulf. Equally as important, Rep. Taylor is the reason that the coordination between what was in the air, the ground, and the water has turned into a smoother, cooperative, and effective effort to prevent oil from entering the Mississippi Sound.
"A unique airborne emergency response tool, ASPECT is a Los Alamos/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency project that can put chemical and radiological mapping tools in the air over an accident scene. The name ASPECT is an acronym for Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology."