CUSP Urban Observatory

Better cities through imaging.

Through the novel use of observational and analytical techniques, the Urban Observatory at New York University’s Center for Urban Science + Progress (CUSP-UO) studies the complex interactions between the physical, natural, and human components of the city as a coherent, definable system with the goal of enhancing public well-being, city operations, and future urban plans. With our persistent, synoptic imaging and sensing of NYC, researchers at the UO are developing insights into energy use and stresses on the power grid, measuring the environmental impact of cities on air quality, and characterizing how urban centers affect patterns of daily life and public health.


Gregory Dobler
urban observatory; broad-band imaging energy proxies; rebound studies; circadiem disruption; ecological impact of urban lighting; infrared building dynamics; hyperspectral plumes; vegetative health
Federica Bianco
Senior Research Scientist
hypertemporal imaging, visible plumes, street level image analysis
Andy Karpf
Project Manager
water vapor and latent heat detection
Mohit Sharma
Research Scientist
network infrastructure; software defined radio; human mobility
Julien Baur
Postdoctoral Researcher
energy studies under the ARPA-E IDEAS grant
Steve Koonin
CUSP Director

Research Projects


Imaging a city night skyline at different time scales we create models of energy consumption and electrical grid dynamics. Seconds-scale images provide insight into occupancy and activity patterns. Subsecond (hypertemporal) imaging of the same scene can reveal the phase of the electrical grid granular to individual housing units. Spectral wavelength imaging reveals the lighting technologies used in NYC (hyperspectral)

Broad Band Visible imaging of energy proxies
Hypertemporal imaging of energy
Rebound studies through hyperspectral imaging
Infrared building dynamics


Time-dependent visible wavelength imaging is used to identify soot plumes ejected from NYC buildings and track them as they are transported by urban winds. Hyperspectral imagery yields both the chemical content and concentration of those plumes, providing a unique method to measure air quality in NYC. Observations of chlorophyll in urban vegetation are correlated with data from in situ air quality sensors to measure the impact of urban energy use on vegetation. Nighttime imaging of the skyline is correlated with radar and volunteer data to study impacts of urban lighting on migrating bird ecologies.

Ecological impact of urban lighting
Visible and hyperspectral plumes
Vegetative health
Water vapor and latent heat detection


Energy studies at the UO are supported by DOE ARPA-E IDEAS Grant A18-0050-001
PIs :Bianco, Dobler
The IDEAS (Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science) program provides a continuing opportunity for the rapid support of early-stage applied research to explore pioneering new concepts with the potential for transformational and disruptive changes in energy technology

Contact the UO