Artificial Intelligence for analysis and fusion of Earth Observation and internet data to support situational awareness in emergency response (AIFER)

Disasters such as floods, forest fires or storms do not stop at national borders. Austria and Germany have therefore decided to join forces and conduct joint research in order to optimise support for emergency services in dealing with major emergencies. Within the research project AIFER (Künstliche Intelligenz zur Analyse und Fusion von Erdbeobachtungs- und Internetdaten zur Unterstützung bei der Lageerfassung und -einschätzung) a system was being researched and developed that used artificial intelligence to record and evaluate a flood scenario. Different data from satellites, aircraft, drones and data from social networks were analysed, summarised and processed in real time. Not only the technical, but also the legal, sociological and ethical aspects were taken into account.

The University of Kassel, Chair for Public Law, IT Law and Environmental Law, was responsible for the legal aspects of the project. The aim was to ensure the legally compliant technical design of the processes to be researched.

From a legal perspective, the project raised numerous questions that needed to be analysed. These related in particular to the use of artificial intelligence to analyse data. In this area, there were many legal issues that had not been conclusively clarified, which affected both fundamental rights and statutory law. In addition, the project raised legal questions regarding the lawfulness of processing data from various sources (satellites, drones, aeroplanes, geo-social networks, intelligence services), which were of particular importance due to the potential personal nature of the data in question. As disaster situations are often not limited to the territory of a single country, the cross-border nature of the procedures to be investigated was also taken into account.

The project was led by Dr. Marc Wieland (German Aerospace Centre) on the German side and Prof. Dr. Bernd Resch (University of Salzburg, Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS) on the Austrian side.

The Austrian research partners were the University of Salzburg, Johanniter, the Austrian Red Cross - Salzburg Regional Association, Spatial Services GmbH and the Institute for Empirical Social Research.

The German research partners were the German Aerospace Centre, Disy Informationssysteme GmbH, the Bavarian Red Cross and the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (Technisches Hilfswerk).

Project information

Federal Ministry of Education and Research

February 2021 - October 2023

Project leader and Contact:
Prof. Dr. Gerrit Hornung, LL.M.

Carolin Gilga

Project information Austria

The Austrian part of the project is part of the KIRAS program for security research