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Defence imagery in FOCus
The Department of Defence generates vast amounts of handheld imagery during the
course of daily operations, the majority of which can be divided into public affairs imagery
and operations/intelligence imagery.
The need to comply with Commonwealth
directives, such as the Archives Act, has resulted
in large amounts of imagery being archived.
The Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation
(DIGO) has responsibility for ADF Type II
‘operational and intelligence imagery’. And the
Defence Hand-held Image Gallery (DHIG) was
established on the Defence Secret Network to
facilitate sharing these images to the wider ADO
community through a robust web-based interface.
The gallery content is varied, with a large
proportion of maritime subjects due to
considerable contributions from Navy and Air
Force’s 92 Wing. Selected imagery from Australian
Government and foreign agencies is also included.
Feedback from users shows that the Defence
Hand-held Image Gallery meets a variety of needs.
Flight Sergeant Shane Clause from 92 Wing
said his section (92TIF GEOINT) has been using
the DHIG consistently since its inception and
has provided several essential capabilities not
“The ability to search for past imagery showing
orders of battle has significantly enhanced our
ability to conduct comparative cover analysis on
items of interest. This has improved the quality,
accuracy and timeliness of our imagery reports,”
FSGT Clause said.
“The remote upload function has also allowed
us to contribute to the DHIG while deployed
on operations. This has made 92Wing more
by enabling us
to release large
amounts of imagery
to the greater ADF
while deployed and
in a short space
“The DHIG has
also reduced the
workload of the
GEOINT section by providing a single-source of
handheld imagery that those with a need-to-know
“Before the DHIG, 92TIF GEOINT received
constant requests for generic images from past
sorties that we were unable to efficiently archive.
We now direct requestors to the DHIG, allowing
us to concentrate on more urgent tasking.”
Assistant Director with DIGO Phil Shears reinforced
this by acknowledging the DHIG as an invaluable
resource that provides high quality images from
across the Australian Defence theatre of operations
and encompasses a variety of topics.
“Provision of high resolution images allows
users to exploit the smallest details. In a recent
case, a customer gained significant insight from an
image that was seemingly unrelated to their issue,”
Mr Shears said.
“Important features were identified in the
background of the image and the user was
able to discover information that was not
Warrant Officer Robert Fengler from the Navy
Communications and Information Warfare Branch
said the age-old cliché that images are worth 1000
words is no different in the intelligence community.
“The Navy Imagery Specialist Category has been
involved for many years in providing operational
and intelligence imagery into various databases,”
WO Fengler said.
Disaster relief web service puts assistance on the
A capability initiative with the Association of
South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is enabling more
consolidated, cohesive and successful humanitarian
assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.
The Assistant Secretary of the Defence Geospatial-
Intelligence Branch in the Defence Imagery and
Geospatial Organisation (DIGO), Mr Frank Colley,
is driving the capability initiative, which aims to
draw members of the ASEAN Regional Forum and
“DIGO has been involved in supporting HADR for
many years,” Mr Colley said.
“However, experience has taught us that the
provision of timely and effective support in times of
crisis is greatly affected by the ready availability of
Mr Colley believes that successful HADR operations
are principally enabled by a series of well-made
and timely decisions, and many of these decisions
have a critical, underlying spatial or geospatial
component, such as:
› What type of disaster has occurred
and what is the extent?
› Who and what has been affected?
› Where is the response most required?
› How will the response transit and where
will it arrive?
› How will distribution occur?
Australia, South-East Asia and the Pacific
region are environments that are extremely
susceptible to natural disaster and the requirement
for humanitarian assistance. The region also
contains some extremely remote and uncharted
areas, where available information, data and
mapping are poor or even non-existent.
Mr Glenn Maiden leads DIGO’s efforts in
responding to HADR crises.
“The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 wreaked
shocking damage in the South-East Asian region,”
Mr Maiden said.
“The ramifications of this event were pivotal
to ASEAN member countries when reassessing
how to better plan for and respond to future
disasters. In particular, the ASEAN Regional Forum
(ARF) recognised that the availability of geospatial
data in a timely manner is a critical enabler for a
successful HADR effort.”
expand in the level of participation and the range
and utility of the data made available.
“The July rollout is focused on delivering an initial
HADR data warehouse and dissemination capability.
However, the architecture has been designed as
highly extensible, so once the system has proven
its utility and viability in the HADR arena, it is
expected that ARF DReaMS will be augmented
with additional capabilities, such as advanced
geospatial modelling and editing tools.
“By proactively making HADR information
available before a crisis, we aim to facilitate
enhanced HADR planning and training and assist
in the development of policies for better information
sharing,” Mr Colley said.
In times of crisis, the system will provide prompt
and consistent data dissemination, and link the
people who are providing support to enable more
effective and timely HADR outcomes – a great
win–win situation for the region.
ABOVe: These images of a Royal Singapore Air Force
F-16D (left) and a 400mm WS-2 rocket launch system
(right) are just one of many on the Defence Handheld
By Corporal Craig Eager
“But this imagery was never available for
viewing. Fortunately, as a result of the DHIG,
these images are now available for searching,
viewing and downloading; and can be used for
various presentations, even training aides or
“Navy gathers a significant amount of imagery
from its own professional imagery specialists
along with images submitted from Fleet units, so
to have access in one central point provides an
excellent point of reference.”
The DHIG provides simplistic but comprehensive
search and retrieve functions by way of structured
metadata, allowing the user to pinpoint specific
subjects of interest (providing the image exists)
with a keyword. Another search function, ‘keyword
browsing’ allows the user to view specific
keywords within defined metadata fields (such as
type/class, city, country or originating agency etc).
For technical information relating to hand-held
imagery management / metadata requirements,
general enquiries or transferring/uploading
imagery; help is available through the DRN at
email@example.com or phone DIGO
Hand-held Imagery on 02 612 77438.
“Australia is well placed to
assist other nations in the times
of distress, particularly those
within our immediate region. In
recent years, Australia has been
able to deploy defence capabilities
to aid regional humanitarian
assistance and disaster relief
efforts. The Australian Defence
Force provided critical disaster
recovery assistance following
events such as the Boxing Day
tsunami of 2004, the 2005
earthquake in Pakistan and the
floods caused by cyclone Guba
in Papua New Guinea in 2007.”
- The Defence White Paper 2009
to geospatial information
At the ARF inter-sessional support group meeting
in April 2009, Australia proposed the concept of an
online, geospatial warehouse – the ARF Disaster
Relief Mapping Service (ARF DReaMS), which
provides a central location for countries affected by
disaster to share geospatial information.
“We are particularly pleased that Singapore
formally agreed to co-sponsor the ARF DReaMS
initiative which was a major factor in achieving
endorsement by the ARF Ministers on 23 July 2009,”
Mr Maiden said.
The aim of ARF DReaMS is to provide a central
data repository that is populated with broad-scale
base data, with a key focus on aeronautical data for
South-East Asia and the Pacific.
ARF DReaMS is based on ESRI web service
technology, where traditional maps, data and any
relevant geospatial information are made available
digitally. As a baseline, the system is nominally
a 1:500,000 scale map skin, augmented with
commercially sourced aeronautical data.
In the initial capability, ARF DReaMS will
operate much like any traditional web portal,
where members authenticate to a secure site
to access and upload HADR information.
“DIGO has been working with industry and we are
very excited with the support that we have received.
We are well on track to meet the intended aim of
an initial ARF DReaMS operating capability by July
2010,” Mr Maiden said.
Once a representative from a member country logs
on to ARF DReaMS, that person is able to upload
any additional information related to their area of
responsibility and access the data provided by all
members when supporting HADR missions.
Member countries are expected to provide more
detailed data on a voluntary basis, and are not
expected to upload any sensitive data.
“DIGO envisages an open system that is able to
accept any available data relevant to the HADR
mission at hand, such as geospatial data, photos,
PDF documents etc,” Mr Maiden said.
Mr Colley said that DIGO views the system
“We believe that the ARF DReaMS capability
provides a great foundation for future development,”
Mr Colley said.
“Once our ARF partners build their confidence in
the site and see its potential, the site will rapidly
BeLOW: The home page of the ASEAN Regional Forum
Disaster Relief Mapping Service. FAR LeFT TO RIGHT: Data
extracted and exploited from the ARF-DReaMS service for crisis
support planning purposes.
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