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Portuguese researchers resort to Artificial Intelligence to address natural disasters

09th February 2023

Coordinated by the Italian company ITHACA, this project features 10 partners from five countries (Portugal, Italy, Poland, Denmark, and Germany), with a total investment of €3M for the next three years. OVERWATCH will develop an integrated holographic system to support operators in the management of fire and flood fighting resources, using Artificial Intelligence.

According to Pedro Matias, President of ISQ, "the use of machine learning algorithms is of the greatest relevance in today's world. This new system will allow analysing and consolidating data received through Earth Observation and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and identifying areas targeted by natural disasters, e.g., forest fires and floods - even assisting in search and rescue operations. Artificial Intelligence algorithms will be used in data processing, enabling the definition of fire/water fronts, identifying water points, etc., thus contributing with decision-making tools to the users. The main goal is to provide relevant and more detailed information to decision-makers on the ground, for faster decisions, thus leading to a more efficient management of the available resources.


Portugal will be the stage for one of two demonstrations defined in the project: a simulation of a forest fire to analyse the response of firefighting teams supported by the OVERWATCH system.

"The system will combine several services already provided by EGNSS (European Global Navigation Satellite System) and the Copernicus Emergency Management and Security with digital technologies, Artificial Intelligence and drones. The main goal is to provide updated, thorough, and interactive information in a timely manner to those responsible for decision-making in the fight and mitigation of natural disasters, explained Nelson Matos, ISQ Project Manager.

Hugo Silva, researcher at INESC TEC believes that "OVERWATCH is a project that aims to train emergency teams with an advanced high-resilience sensory perception tool in catastrophe scenarios". INESC TEC will develop a mobile communications system that uses a "tethered drone" and a satellite broadband connection, to provide communication services (Wi-Fi and 5G) to emergency teams and to the Overwatch system in case of communications failure, something that usually happens in this type of scenarios.

In practical terms, "and in addition to a fallback communications solution, this system aims to complement the existing emergency network, by introducing support for new use cases with more demanding communication requirements than the traditional voice services, i.e., the use of robotic platforms for massive and automated data collection, and the operation of holographic systems for better situational recognition", he added.

The OVERWATCH project is part of the Horizon Europe programme, within the scope of the EUSPA (European Union Agency for the Space Programme).

The project is funded by the Horizon Europe Programme (CALL: HORIZON-EUSPA-2021-SPACE) under Grant Agreement 101082320.