Ursa Space, Geosite Team Respond to Australia Flooding Event


South Australia experienced some of its worst flooding in recent memory when flood levees failed late last year along the Murray River, inundating the region and causing serious property damage.

In events like this one, processing insurance claims as quickly as possible is critical for individuals affected by the flood.  In recent years, satellite imagery has emerged as a powerful resource for claims processors to rapidly and holistically assess area conditions after a catastrophic event.

For Geosite, this scenario is precisely why their organization was founded: to make geospatial data more readily available and digestible in the insurance industry.


Speed to Deliver

Following the levee failure, Geosite’s client who insures property in the flood zone needed rapid identification of areas in South Australia that were now under water.

Geosite reached out to Ursa Space, a US-based satellite analytics provider, for a solution. The Ursa team specializes in analyzing a powerful mode of satellite imagery, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), that works in any weather, day or night.

SAR’s weather-agnostic capability enables Ursa’s 90+ change detection algorithms to deliver results in a matter of days, as opposed to on-the-ground inspection which could take weeks or even months.

Ursa flood extent data for the December 2022 Murray River Flooding within Geosite’s Ascend Platform



Using SAR imagery collected by Airbus over the flood zone, we applied an algorithm designed to detect the presence of water.

Water pixels were extracted and classified separately from existing water bodies to obtain a flood extent map that was used to pinpoint the exact locations where flooding occurred. Geosite also used optical imagery from Planet Labs for a visual reference check.

The results can be seen below. Ursa’s analysis shows the water extent caused by flooding along the Murray River near Swan Reach, northeast of Adelaide. The results are overlaid on Google Earth optical imagery.

The next two examples show the Murray River around Morgan, also northeast of Adelaide, looking in a southeasterly direction.

The SAR-derived analysis is overlaid on SAR imagery from Copernicus Sentinel 1-A and optical imagery from Google Earth, respectively.


Industry Shift

According to Geosite, many insurance companies today have yet to fully adopt this type of solution, relying instead on more traditional methods to assess risk, process claims, and interact with customers.

“Geosite’s insurance solutions are driving innovation and eliminating inefficiencies across the insurance industry,” said Rachel Hausmann, Head of Partnerships at Geosite.

“But Geosite is not an analytic company, we are a data aggregator. We partner with analytic providers like Ursa Space to deliver SAR expertise. Working with Ursa on problems like this, we’re able to speed claims processing by more than 50%,” Rachel said.

Geosite’s Claims solution provides carriers with post-catastrophe data within 24-48 hours after an event and can be accessed via API or through their visualization platform. They offer knowledge of the post-catastrophe data market, one contract for the carrier to access many providers, and improved location accuracy.

“These solutions for the insurance sector are no longer theoretical,” said Billie Sims, Vice President, Partner Program at Ursa Space. “We’re incorporating these data points into an actual workflow, and it’s allowing organizations like Geosite to dole out claim responses much faster.”





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