Automated bushfire detection

Early detection is critical to managing bushfires before they cause widespread devastation. A CSIRO experiment showed that within two hours of ignition, fire area increased by 300 per cent.  In even moderately dry summer conditions, every 10-minute delay in detecting a fire can see it grow up to 1500 m2 (or 0.15 ha).

NSW And ACT On High Bushfire Alert As Heatwave Conditions ContinueNSW And ACT On High Bushfire Alert As Heatwave Conditions Continue

A water bombing helicopter picks up water from the Murrumbidgee River near Mount Tennant as the fire front of the Orroral Valley fire creeps forward in Namadgi National Park on the outskirts of the city of Canberra, Australia – January 30, 2020. Photo Credit: Brook Mitchell via Getty Images.

As a first step to enhancing our bushfire detection capability, Minderoo Foundation is working with the ACT Rural Fire Service (ACT RFS), Optus and the Australian National University to trial the use of ‘ground sensing’ cameras to improve detection and monitoring of bushfires.

Bushfire Threat For ACT And NSW Remains With High Temperatures And ThundersBushfire Threat For ACT And NSW Remains With High Temperatures And Thunders

Firefighters watch as a helicopter water bombs a spot fire in the Orroral Valley on Boboyan Road in Canberra, Australia – February 02, 2020. Photo Credit: Brook Mitchell via Getty Images.

The cameras will be placed on fire towers across the ACT and operate 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Currently, the ACT RFS detect bushfires through visual monitoring from towers. The data from this trial will assess the viability of automated monitoring for early bushfire detection on a national scale.

“The pilot technology that we are trialling with Minderoo Foundation and Optus is vital and potentially lifesaving work. If we are able to improve the speed and accuracy of fire detection it ultimately means we can improve our response and better protect communities and landscapes.”

Chief Officer Rohan Scott, ACT RFS

“We are pleased to support this project in partnership with the Minderoo Foundation, ACT RFS and ANU. Communities around Australia are still recovering from last season’s devastating fires, and improvements in detecting and responding to dangerous bushfires can have a big impact in protecting landscapes and communities.”

Chris Mitchell, Managing Director of Optus Business

“We are proud to be bringing our scientific expertise to this project in collaboration with Optus and the Minderoo Foundation. New research approaches to real-time detection, informed by on-the-ground evidence, will help to fast track improvements in fire detection speed and accuracy.” 

Professor Keith Nugent, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research & Innovation at the Australian National University

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