Wildfire Technology: New Ways to Fight Forest Fires
Introduction: can the right technology provide a solution for wildfires?
Wildfires pose significant threats worldwide, impacting ecosystems, communities, and exacerbating climate change. The worsening wildfire picture attests to both the alarming rate that our planet is heating and the insufficiency of mitigation technologies to date. Wildfire prevention technology is a burgeoning industry, with many promising developments, as this article will explore.
Fortunately, that’s beginning to change and innovative new technology to fight wildfires is coming to the fore. These climate change technologies are changing things for the better.
In 2022, wildfires burned more than 5.7 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. In 2018, wildfires in California cost the US economy $148.5bn with economic losses to 80 industry sectors, according to the UCL. For the period between 2017 and 2021, the cost of California's wildfires was a staggering $117.4 billion.
Read more: The Economic Costs of Wildfires in California: Urgency of Early Detection | Dryad Networks
As pointed out by the US Government, damages and losses are much higher if you factor in firefighting efforts and rehabilitation costs. While conservationists and firefighters work tirelessly to stop new wildfires from spreading, many technologies can help curb the spread of existing wildfires.
Wildland Fires: a growing concern
The threat of wildland fires has become an increasing concern worldwide, with dire consequences for the environment, biodiversity, and human life. The combination of climate change, dry conditions, and human activities has led to more frequent and intense fire seasons.
To address this challenge, innovative new wildfire technology is being developed to improve fire management strategies and mitigate the devastating impacts of these fires.
New technologies are constantly being developed to help fight wildfires. Let's look at six rapidly emerging technologies that can help fight wildfires around the world and help in the fight against climate change.
Wildfire Prevention Technologies: what technology is used to detect wildfires?
In the battle against wildfires, the imperative for innovative technology to stop wildfires has become increasingly evident. With the growing frequency and intensity of these disasters, there is a pressing need for cutting-edge solutions that can swiftly and effectively halt the spread of wildfires.
The fusion of advanced technologies, such as satellite-based fire detection systems, drone surveillance, and AI-supported sensor networks, is paving the way for a comprehensive approach to wildfire prevention.
These technologies are not merely futuristic concepts; they are tangible tools in the hands of researchers, conservationists, and first responders, working collaboratively to develop a robust line of defense against the destructive force of wildfires.
Let's look at six of these technologies in turn:
1. Fire Urgency Estimator in Geosynchronous Orbit (FUEGO)
While still at the concept stage, this ultra-modern technology is a series of drones and satellites equipped with infrared sensors.
Developed by the astrophysicist Carlton Pennypacker, Fire Urgency Estimator in Geosynchronous Orbit (FUEGO) hopes to detect the early warning signs of wildfires from space. FUEGO will use platforms at various altitudes, including satellites that orbit the earth.
This technology is new and is yet to be tested, but it’s a good example of some of the bleeding-edge climate change technologies being developed to fight forest fires.
2. Drones to Identify Fire Spread
Drones are an increasingly utilized form of new technology, and they have recently been suggested as one of the latest climate change technologies.
Drones can spend up to eight hours in the air at a time, allowing them to carry wildfire monitoring technologies to speak directly to forest service teams.
They provide an ideal solution for monitoring wildfire spread when smoke is too thick for manned aircraft.
“There are certain times that it’s just not safe for us to utilize manned helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft, like nighttime operations or in thick smoke or high winds,” explains Justin Baxter, the Forest Service National UAS Operations Specialist in Wildfire Today.
While proving useful in protecting lives and monitoring wildfire spread, drones come up short when it comes to providing solutions for wildfires at the early stages.
3. Infrared Cameras
Infrared cameras or thermal imaging are the perfect climate change technology partners for drones. Like drones, they don’t provide solutions to forest fires but can detect and report heat, even without a flame.
This means that drones monitoring the forest canopies can detect wildfires when they’re on a smaller scale. Conservationists can see clearly where the fire is burning at its hottest point to locate where the fire is located within the forest vs. radiated heat.
This kind of climate change technology is helpful when navigating vast wooded areas and was pivotal in monitoring wildfires in Oregon in 2020.
4. I4F instant Foam
Sometimes, water isn’t the best way to fight wildfires. Often they’re too extreme for water to cope with alone. Vast quantities of water are needed to fight fires, and often water is wasted during transportation. Dropping water isn’t always accurate, according to Cordis EU Research.
The foam technology developed by Cordis is more accurately able to coat vast forest areas, evenly distributing foam in areas where water may be ineffective.
While firefighting with foam isn’t a new solution for wildfire, the I4F foam has been developed to be less wasteful than traditional forms of foam. As a climate change technology, it's more environmentally friendly than other foams.
5. Firefighting Robots
Robots have been leading the way in firefighting in urban areas and are now being used as a firefighting solution for forest fires.
Using a robot or a multi-agent RVC, as described by IOP Science, allows first responders to control them using a remote control unit. The units are self-propelled and come equipped with a firefighting nozzle, blade, and winch making them an effective climate change technology and firefighting solution.
Unfortunately, the remote controls are currently ineffective and difficult to manipulate, but technology is quickly advancing to help create units that are easier to manage.
6. AI-supported Sensor Networks
One of the key aspects of effective wildfire management is situational awareness. Real-time data plays a crucial role in understanding the behavior and progression of active fires. With advancements in technology, firefighters and first responders now have access to up-to-date information on fire location, intensity, and direction. This real-time data enables them to make informed decisions and deploy resources strategically to combat wildfires more effectively.
Leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, sensor networks offer a reliable solution for early wildfire detection. With the help of distributed LoRaWAN® gateways, Dryad Networks' wildfire sensors monitor various environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, and air pressure, providing rapid alerts at the first signs of fire.
Compared to other solutions for forest fires, Dryad's Silvanet is the best way to detect fires before they become a real problem. Its sensors, gateways and embedded artificial intelligence can detect fires at the smolder stage - often in minutes. The leveraging of these new technologies represents a giant leap forward in forest fire technology and offers the tantalising prospect of finally being able to properly grapple with the scourge of human-induced wildfires.
Unlike other solutions, Dryad's sensor network offers rapid detection at large scale, making it a highly effective tool in combating wildfires. The scalability of the Dryad solution allows for the deployment of sensor networks deep within forests, providing an extensive and reliable early warning system.
When it comes to wildfire detection and prevention, speed is of the essence, and Dryad's unparalleled detection capabilities make it the optimal choice for safeguarding ecosystems, communities, and valuable resources from the devastating impact of wildfires.
As the world grapples with increasing wildfire threats, the development of technology to prevent wildfires presents a ray of hope. From satellite-based detection systems to firefighting robots and sensor networks, these cutting-edge solutions offer unprecedented capabilities in wildfire suppression.
This article has looked at six examples of wildfire technology and considered their merits. This is unlikely to ever be a singular wildfire solution. But while each technology has its strengths and limitations, when combined, they form a formidable arsenal for the early detection, prevention, and effective management of wildfires. The ongoing advancements in technology to stop wildfires signify a crucial step towards safeguarding our ecosystems, communities, and valuable resources from the devastating impacts of these natural disasters. As we continue to advance in forest fire prevention technology, we move closer to minimizing the devastating impacts of wildfires and creating a safer and more resilient future for all.