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UMBC and GESTAR II host UN-ITU Focus Group's annual workshop

The United Nations International Telecommunications Union (UN-ITU) Focus Group on AI for Natural Disaster Management scheduled its annual international workshop. This year, NASA’s Disasters Program led the organization of this workshop, which was hosted at UMBC's arena, from March 13-14. This was arranged as a collaboration between UMBC's GESTAR II team and NASA Disasters Program Leadership, Dr. Shanna McClain. Arif Albayrak (618/UMBC) and Robert Emberson (617/UMBC) were both involved in organizing this workshop. The objective of the workshop was twofold: first, to share novel AI methods and use-cases for Disaster Management, and second, to plan future actions of the Focus Group (FG-AI4NDM).

Over 230 virtual and in-person participants joined the public events on March 13th and 14th. Following the successful two-day workshop, the Disasters Program hosted high-level discussions at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on March 15th. The outcome of these meetings includes deepening the collaboration between NASA and the UN ITU focus group, and the identification of opportunities for NASA, UN ITU, and UMBC scientists to connect with an extensive audience of AI-researchers. While at UMBC, attendees were given a tour of the UMBC campus, and on the final day, participants were given the opportunity to visit the NASA Goddard Visitor Center.

On March 13, 2024, at the FG-AI4NDM workshop on "Resilience to Natural Hazards through AI Solutions", there were keynote presentations, sessions, and discussions on how AI is being used to support disaster management, both operationally and in research. The importance of keeping technology "human-centric" and interacting with end-users throughout AI development and operational use was emphasized. A very diverse group of participants, including members from International Telecommunications Union (ITU), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), European Union (EU), various countries from Nigeria to Cayman Islands, and universities and organizations including NASA Headquarters and Goddard Space Flight Center, Johns Hopkins University, UMBC, UMD, Applied Physics Laboratory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, IBM (Quantum/AI/ML), ICEYE, and more joined the workshop and the final meeting of the FG-AI4NDM.

On March 14, 2024, the final meeting of FG-AI4NDM and launch of a UN Global Initiative was held. This new initiative, called Resolutions, was officially launched. Participants also discussed and approved ten use case proposals related to AI-based precipitation nowcasting, quality control of hydrometeorological data for climate forecasting, damage assessment in satellite imagery, and an integrated holographic management map for safety and crisis events. 

On March 15, 2024, a small high-level delegation of the focus group visited NASA GSFC, organized by the HQ Disasters Program and GSFC leadership. Representatives from NASA and the UN ITU Focus group discussed various projects and initiatives related to disaster management and AI. Dr. Dalia Kirschbaum, Director of the GSFC Earth Sciences Division (ESD), introduced the ESD and highlighted various activities. She emphasized the importance of international partnerships in accelerating science. Dr. Robert Emberson then presented the NASA Disasters Program, which demonstrated how models can provide actionable information and the benefit to AI for disaster resilience. The program showcased examples of how near-time satellite observations of volcanic ash and synthetic aperture radar were used to provide proxy maps during wildfires in Hawaii and identified opportunities for connecting the Disasters Program to international efforts including the Early Warning for All Initiative (EW4All).

*Thanks to Arif Albayrak and Robert Emberson for providing the information on this important workshop. Dr. Albayrak is the Co-Chair of the ITU/WMO/UNEP FG-AI4NDM, a member of the NASA disaster group, and a Senior Research Engineer with GESTAR II/UMBC. As liaison, Dr. Albayrak worked with agencies, UMBC, and GESTAR II to make this event happen. Dr. Emberson is a member of the NASA disaster group and Associate Research Scientist with GESTAR II/UMBC, and was heavily involved in organizing this international workshop. 

UN-ITU Workshop Attendees at UMBC's Retriever Activity Center. (Photo Credit: Jessie Cruz, WMO)

Posted: April 4, 2024, 12:24 PM