September 24, 2021

This flying fire sensor can help track wildfires from space satellites

With wildfires destroying western North America, a new aerial project team hopes to develop a space-based solution to stop the fires before they spiral out of control.
According to a statement from the University of California, Berkeley, the project could one day help future firefighters obtain maps of “fire behavior within 20 minutes of an outbreak, using satellite data combined with machine learning (a type artificial intelligence).
This project is funded by a $ 1.5 million grant and will fund a “reconnaissance aircraft” with infrared detectors, a heat search sensor, to verify the length and geometry of the flame to learn more about how fire spreads. At the same time, machine learning algorithms, provided they are well trained on other “hot” data sets, can detect new fires in the area in a few milliseconds and send alerts.
Related: Wildfire turns the sun and moon red
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If all air tests go well, the detector team including the Space Science Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley and Fireball Information Technologies, a Nevada fire assessment company, hopes to send similar sensors into space within four years for monitoring and discovery 24/7 activities.
Having said that, the statement from the University of California, Berkeley did not provide detailed information about which satllites or satellites are considering equipment for their instruments, and how they will (except for sensor testing) be a possible 2025 launch date (a relatively Quick timetable) to prepare.
However, the researchers pointed out that airborne testing will be the key to success in space. “Aircraft systems can measure signal strength and background, and test data flow and analysis software. Therefore, when we launch satellites within a few years, we will fly a well-tested and validated system,” he said. , A physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. In the statement.
A typical wildfire burned for more than 20 minutes before the report, making the fire easily out of control, the team said in a statement. To make matters worse, due to drought, higher temperature and lower humidity, global warming has led to an increase in the intensity and scale of such fires. Therefore, although the number of fires has been reduced due to better training and skills of firefighters, more land is burned every year.
Researchers argue that more rapid adaptive solutions are needed. Fireball tried to use airplanes, helicopters, and drones to meet this demand, but the larger US Forest Service could only fly detectors once every 24 hours at night, because the fire is easier to show on its infrared sensors.
“We plan to build a system that truly provides firefighters with better and more detailed fire space characteristics in real time,” said former firefighter and Fireball founder and president Tim Bower in the same statement. He added that the benefits will include improving the safety of firefighters and facilitating strategic decision-making.
The new grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will allow the team to test sensors in the air before hoping to place the instrument on a geostationary satellite pointing to the western United States or other international fire-prone areas.
A geostationary satellite with two cameras, or a mirror can change the field of view, almost the entire western United States can be observed and constantly looking for wildfires.
A geostationary satellite with two cameras, or a mirror can change the field of view, almost the entire western United States can be observed and constantly looking for wildfires. (Image source: Carl Pennypacker)
Since these satellites rotate at the same speed as the earth below, they can continuously monitor an area. From space, the detector can detect a fire as small as two semi-trailers together, provided that they perform as expected in the air test.
Pennypacker once hoped to use the entire satellite for fire observation, called the Geosynchronous Orbit Fire Emergency Estimator (FIRE). Although the project has not yet been implemented, the statement only stated that Pennypacker “a little despised”, on the contrary, he has been studying aerial surveillance and analysis software.
Pennypacker also brings experience of working with the ALERT Wildfire team at the University of California, San Diego, which has near-infrared cameras throughout California to detect fires. The team said that these cameras have pan and tilt functions and can also confirm wildfires within one to five minutes after ignition.
“This is different from what we are doing,” said Ball, who also works with ALERT Wildfire. “We can measure small fires and huge fires, and then provide ground firefighters with a map showing the size, intensity and spread rate of the fire in a few minutes.”

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