Fighting fires – will satellites and artificial intelligence save the Australian bush?

Walka z pożarami

Australia is one of the most fire-prone countries in the world. About 60,000 cases of fire ignition are reported here every year. Not surprisingly, fighting fires has become a national priority and involves huge financial resources and elite scientific institutes. An innovative new idea for disaster prevention has just been developed by the University of South Australia. What is the breakthrough?

Fighting fires is a fight against time

Starting a fire in the dry climate of the Australian bush has always been easy. Now the danger is intensifying with climate change, which is causing prolonged droughts around the world. The National University of Australia predicts that the continent could soon be hit by a drought that will last up to 20 years!

The damage caused by a fire depends, of course, on its scale. In order for firefighting units to get the fire under control in a timely manner, they need the fastest possible system for informing people about allegations. Until now, fire detection has relied on data from fixed satellites 34,000 miles away. km from Earth and satellites orbiting at a distance of 500-900 km. The former provide images at a frequency of every 10 minutes, but they are not sharp enough to spot a small fire. The latter offer excellent image quality, but due to constant movement, information arrives with a delay of up to 6 hours. The fight against fires thus already begins at a loss.

Help from space: small satellites and artificial intelligence

To meet the climate challenge, researchers from the University of South Australia, in collaboration with Swinburne University and the CRC’s SmartSat research center, have developed an algorithm that will enable the satellite’s artificial intelligence to process the resulting images instantly. As a result, fire detection will be 500 times faster than with existing conventional technologies. Data will no longer need to be downloaded to Earth and processed late. It will be possible to detect a fire within an hour of its start, enabling ground teams to respond much more quickly.

The project will use Australia’s first CubeSat, Kanyini. We’re talking about a small modular satellite whose sensor will be able to identify light reflected from the Earth’s surface at different wavelengths, generating detailed terrain maps. Compared to classical analysis of satellite images, the system will enable a reduction in the volume of data downloaded from space to just 16 percent. While reducing energy consumption by 69 percent.

Fighting fires is not the only task that Kanyini, armed with artificial intelligence, will help with. According to the originators, the system will also be able to detect other natural disasters and assess water quality and land management efficiency. Its launch is planned for 2025. For the time being, the system uses the fires occurring in Australia on a regular basis for so-called “firefighting. machine learning. This training will improve the fire detection process, helping the model correctly distinguish between smoke and clouds, for example.

Fighting fires
pic. Mark Galer/Unsplash

Why is fighting fires in Australia so important?

The wave of fires that swept through Australia in 2019-2020 has engulfed 15 million hectares of land and killed dozens of people and about a billion animals. The cataclysm was, of course, the result of a prolonged drought and record high temperatures, both of which are expected to intensify.

According to a study published in Science Advances, colossal amounts of smoke in the atmosphere caused a three-year episode of La Nina phenomenon dominance over the tropical Pacific Ocean. As a result, extreme weather events have been observed in many parts of the world – in Africa, millions of people have died from extremely severe drought, while in Pakistan, more than a thousand people have died from catastrophic floods.

The early warning system, if it proves to be as effective as its developers promise, could therefore have an impact not only on Australia itself, but also on the global climate. Fighting fires is also of great importance for human health – clouds of smoke from burning forests are a mixture of dangerous substances such as PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, aromatic hydrocarbons and even lead compounds. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the physical effects of smoke exposure can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, but also bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma symptoms, increased risk of heart failure and even premature death. The most vulnerable, of course, are the communities living in the immediate vicinity of the fires.

Używamy plików cookie, aby zapewnić najlepszą jakość korzystania z Internetu. Zgadzając się, zgadzasz się na użycie plików cookie zgodnie z naszą polityką plików cookie.

Close Popup
Privacy Settings saved!
Ustawienie prywatności

Kiedy odwiedzasz dowolną witrynę internetową, może ona przechowywać lub pobierać informacje w Twojej przeglądarce, głównie w formie plików cookie. Tutaj możesz kontrolować swoje osobiste usługi cookie.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

Technical Cookies
In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec

For perfomance reasons we use Cloudflare as a CDN network. This saves a cookie "__cfduid" to apply security settings on a per-client basis. This cookie is strictly necessary for Cloudflare's security features and cannot be turned off.
  • __cfduid