This week, I’ve spotted another clever use for existing scientific technology…
A system for automatically detecting, locating and tracking forest fires makes use of spectrometry, seeking out the distinctive spectral signature of burning organic material. Deployed in Portugal, the system helps to protect 700 km2 of national park.
Forest fires are a significant problem, responsible for a number of fatalities as well as severe economic impact from loss of property and livestock. In 2012, the US National Interagency Fire Centre recorded 67,744 wild fires, affecting over 9 million acres, and massive bushfires are a common occurrence in Australia. Early detection can dramatically reduce the damage done by a wildfire, and as such, fire detection has often adopted scientific developments.
In the early 20th Century, fires were spotted by human lookouts stationed on towers, who would report back by any means available; carrier pigeon, heliograph, telephones and radio communications all featured. As technology developed, instant aerial photographs and infrared scanning improved detection and satellite communications improved reporting of incidents.
Automated and integrated systems followed soon after, including wireless sensor networks and satellite surveys such as Envisat and the European Remote Sensing Satellite, both capable of identifying hotspots of infrared radiation.
Modern remote fire detectors should be fast, cheap, reliable and able to pinpoint the location of a newly started fire. To try to meet these aims, the Forest Fire Finder, developed by Portuguese company NGNS, incorporates detection, analysis and communication tools into one potentially solar-powered unit. (more…)