Under the Next-Generation First Responder Apex program, Laboratory researchers are developing technologies that can enable drones to provide emergency responders with the information needed to establish situational awareness at disaster sites.

Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Systems

We use our experience developing sensors and decision support software to build systems that are used around the world for coordinating responses to wildfires, aiding urban search-and-rescue missions, assessing damage after hurricanes and earthquakes, and planning for large-scale evacuations. We work closely with local, state, and federal agencies to develop these systems. Our goal is to enable responders to more effectively gain situational awareness, share information, and make decisions in times of crisis. We also prototype technologies, such as communication hubs and solar-powered resources, to aid disaster survivors and refugee populations. Many of our programs involve collaboration across Laboratory groups whose technologies can be applied to disaster and humanitarian missions. 

Featured Projects

This image shows Mexico Beach, FL, after it sustained damage from Hurricane Michael in 2018. It was taken through NOAA’s Emergency Remote Sensing program. Satellites could provide similar information after more incidents. (Image courtesy of NOAA.)
disaster relief
Dedicated satellite imaging could help coordinate emergency response to disasters.
A photo of a Google earth image of Bangladesh, with a heat map over it showing mostly red.
Climate modeling / impact prediction / adaptation
We are creating proactive, integrated decision -support tools and services that empower frontline communities to prepare for climate impacts and minimize losses.  
a photo of a person scanning a QR code, affixed to a small wrapped shipment of food, with a smartphone.
humanitarian assistance
We're building a system to track the dispersal of international food aid.
Rice cooker with attached infrared sensor.
energy
By connecting a PV microgrid powered by solar panels to homes, engineers could provide people who live in regions of power-insecurity with the energy to cook their meals. Unused power could be applied to phone-charging stations.
During a wildfire in southern California, emergency responders shared real-time information on the NICS interface, such as the size of the fire, unit locations, and the rate of the fire’s spread.
disaster relief
Emergency agencies around the world are using NICS to coordinate rapid and organized response to disasters.

Latest News

an aerial shot of a neighborhood submerged in green water.
In the Media
Aug 24
A photo of Mark Hernandez smiling, wearing a green button up shirt. He is outside on a balcony with a view of Boston behind him.
In the Media
May 6

Advancing Our Research

Featured Publications