The International Charter


The International Charter is a worldwide collaboration among space agencies to make satellite data available for the benefit of disaster management authorities during the response phase of an emergency.

The Charter aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through Authorized Users. Disaster management organisations can access space-based information to support crisis mapping and damage assessment by calling a confidential telephone number which is available, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at no cost to the user. Satellite data acquisition and analysis take place on an emergency basis.

A Project Manager, who is qualified in data ordering, handling and application, assists the user throughout the process. Each agency member has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and thus is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property.

CGT – Charter Geobrowser Tool

CGT – Charter Geobrowser Tool


Taitus developed a tool that can report and monitor Charter Activations through a Geobrowser. All natural or man-made disasters (some are listed below) are indicated with special icons and grouped by location. Users can view the last disaster shown on a 2D /3D map of the world or search by type of event or by time interval to find across all the activations recorded from January 2000 to today.

As a result CGT – Charter Geobrowser Toolprovides data and images acquired for that event along with all the features of the satellite and the sensors used to produce them.

Examples of data that could be collected according to the event considered are described below, to underline the importance of remote sensing in types of emergency intervention such as these.

Volcanic Eruption

In the event of an eruption, spaceborne optical and radar instruments are able to monitor lava flows, mudslides, ground fissures and earthquakes, to provide updated information on how the landscape has been affected.

Forest Fire

Satellites sensors that are able to detect heat, smoke and scorched land are proving to be a valuable tool for mapping and monitoring wildfire. In particular, spaceborne thermal infrared sensors can provide data to map and monitor wildfire. Maps provided through the Charter and made available within a few hours of data being acquired, enable fire fighters to predict the path a fire is likely to take. In combination with other information, satellite data are also being used for risk assessment to help prevent fires breaking out in the first place.


Following an earthquake, Earth observation satellite data are extremely valuable in providing a picture of damaged areas and for creating reference mapping to aid emergency operations. For example, knowing if roads are passable, especially in mountainous areas, is vital for getting timely relief to victims. Satellite images can provide updated views of how the landscape has been affected, while before and after images enable damage assessment as a basis for planning immediate humanitarian relief and longer-term restoration.



Since, by their very nature, landslides and mudslides occur on slopes – the topography of the affected area can make access difficult, especially if the road network has been disrupted. In order to plan rescue missions and assess the damage caused, data from optical and radar instruments on Earth observation satellite are invaluable.


Earth observation satellites can provide essential data to help understand the strength and path of a storm, which is critical for the issue of timely warnings. Spaceborne optical and radar instruments are used to monitor changes in cloud structure, winds and waves, sea-surface temperature and sea-surface height. A single image can span the entire storm – from the eye to the outermost fronts.



Data provided in near-real time from spaceborne instruments such as optical sensors and radar, which can ‘see’ through cloud cover and darkness, can provide clear views of flooded areas to aid disaster response. Recognised by relief communities worldwide as an extremely valuable tool for responding to and mitigating the effects of flood events, rapid flood mapping has been the most frequently used application of Charter data since 2000.

Oil Spill

The use of remote sensing by satellites provides synoptic information to help identify a spill and how it spreads over time, which is useful for planning clean-up operations more effectively. In particular, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors, which collect data independently of weather and darkness, are useful for detecting and monitoring oil on the surface of water.

Ice Jam

The polar seas are among the Earth’s most inaccessible regions, so obtaining information about the condition of sea ice was limited before satellite observations. For more than 20 years, data have been available from spaceborne sensors to understand and monitor the polar environment. These data are now being used through the Charter to locate and help ships trapped in heavy ice pack.