Mobilizing Drones to Guide Tsunami Evacuations & Monitor Disasters in Real-Time

Sendai Hosts Demonstration Experiment During Tsunami Evacuation Drill

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in March 2011, concerns have grown around preventing disasters and minimizing damage. Based on its experience of the earthquake, the City of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, is striving to improve its emergency response through a variety of projects. As part of these efforts, Sendai established the "Cooperative Agreement Between Sendai and NTT Docomo to Pursue Urban Development Using ICT" in 2016. This initiative aims to promote a type of urban development that will continue to prosper in the future. It comprises the three categories of "disaster prevention and damage reduction," "regional revitalization," and "demonstration of future technology."

On March 19, 2018, the city of Sendai and NTT Docomo launched a demonstration experiment on a system that monitors disaster situations in real time as they occur, and dispatches drones. Exercising their advantage as a National Strategic Special Zone (*), the City of Sendai conducted this experiment using drones to communicate disaster evacuation information.

On the day of the experiment, Fujitsu, among other companies, joined the City of Sendai and NTT Docomo.

  • *: The national government designates National Strategic Special Zones based on the perspectives of boosting the international competitiveness of industry and promoting the creation of centers of international economic activities. This strategy prioritizes advancing structural reform of the economic system.
The drone used in the demonstration experiment

Launching Drones to Capture and Map Tsunami Images and Sharing Information with Blockchain

A site called the "Ruins of the Great East Japan Earthquake: Sendai Arahama Elementary School" hosted the experiment. The trial centered on an imagined scenario of drones capturing signals from the J-Alert system (nationwide instantaneous alert system) that generates major tsunami warnings.

Fujitsu was in charge of mapping the information that the drone obtained. A map application developed by Fujitsu was installed on a smartphone mounted on the drone. The app displayed aerial photos captured with the smartphone and the location information obtained from them on a map, enabling app users to monitor the disaster situation and share information safely and quickly. The researchers also employed Fujitsu's Virtual Private digital eXchange technology (**) to share information with multiple locations in the city hall. This means each location could securely share its information without needing to collect it all in one place, enabling participants to safely and securely share data among themselves.

Diagram of the demonstration experiment
Screenshot showing the status of the disaster
  • **: The technology maintains data security by allowing only necessary partners to access and share it, and does not release it to external environments. Blockchain technology's augmented functionalities make it possible.

Harnessing the Power of ICT for Disaster Relief

Results of this demonstration experiment show it is possible to monitor disaster locations safely, quickly and remotely. This avoids the need to approach areas in danger of being struck by secondary disasters. As authorities like the police and fire departments begin cooperating to share information in this way, the technology will enable rapid response and rescue through quickly sharing information about unpassable routes, fires, and power outages. Drones will prove especially useful to prevent harm arising from secondary disasters, as they can fly into dangerous areas without unnecessarily risking the lives of rescue workers.

This demonstration experiment proved that is possible to harness the technologies developed by the companies involved in actual disaster situations. Fujitsu, for example, is committed to supporting precise and rapid rescue efforts during disasters. The company is focusing on expanding the capabilities of its map applications and offering them not only to administrative authorities like local governments and police departments, but also to businesses and individuals.