UAS-based Multispectral Assessment of the May 28, 2019 Tipton, KS Tornado

Unpiloted Aerial Systems (UASs) can be invaluable tools in storm damage assessments by providing more detailed information, allowing access in otherwise inaccessible areas, and covering large areas at high spatial. Using multispectral based platforms can potentially improve the detection of stressed vegetation due to damage, based on the response in red, red-edge, and nearinfrared and therefore better capturing the extent and variability of damage. This research examines the use of multispectral (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) and true-color analysis in detecting portion of the May 28, 2019 Tipton, KS tornado. We worked in collaboration with NWS officials and property owners to collect data for a week following the event using two platforms respectively: a DJI Phatom 4 Pro with a truecolor camera, and a DJI Inspire 2 equipped with Micasense RedEdge MX multispectral camera. We focus on three sections of the track: beginning of the track, the end of the track, and hotposts with heaviest damage based on ground surveys by NWS collaborators. Our results show that multispectral analysis (NDVI) can reveal larger portion of the track and can be used to develop damage indicators that are more reflective of tornado intensity. Multispectral analysis could improve damage detection in rural locations, especially in the High Plains, which have well-documented reporting biases due to low population densities, relatively inaccessible areas, and limited damage indicators for stressed vegetation.

Melissa Wagner
Arizona State University

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