European tech tackles forest fires

European tech tackles forest fires

Feature articles |
By Nick Flaherty

Europe is a hotbed for development of technology to tackle forest fires, it you will excuse the analogy.

Last summer summer saw a record 187,114 fires around the world, and with record temperatures this year that is set to be surpassed. Fires across Greece, Spain and Canada have left communities in tatters, with the tragic death of two pilots fighting the fires in Greece.

Companies such as Dryad Networks, Kerlink, NetOP Technology and Sensiotech have been developing ground based sensing while IC Eye and SensaioTech have been developing satellite monitoring systems.

LPWAN developer Semtech has also enhanced its LoRaWAN technology to provide direct links from the ground to satellites in low earth orbit to provide data from the most remote places on the planet.

All of this aims to give early warning of forest fires to allow more effective use of resources and address the impact of higher global temperatures.

Dryad in Berlin is a leading developer of systems for detecting wildfires, using the LoRa wireless technology from Semtech to link sensors in remote regions.

“Wildfires represent a huge global problem that has not been resolved effectively for too long. With Dryad’s highly scalable technology, we believe that from now on wildfires will be detected before they can cause damage. We are excited to lead Dryad’s Series A Financing Round and, together with our co-investors, support the company on its mission to save millions of hectares of forest, significantly reduce the threat for humans and animals and avoid the emission of over a billion tonnes of CO2,” said Dr. Paul-Josef Patt, CEO of eCAPITAL which is backing Dryad.

Semtech is a key supplier to the company and now an investor.

Kerlink in France is also using LoRa has teamed up with Ditch startup NetOP Technology for an AI-based a wildfire-prevention system.

To help identify risk areas, the sub-GHz wireless system combines Kerlink Wirnet gateways with NetOP Technology Forest Capsules that measure meteorological conditions such as humidity, temperature, CO2 and the concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOC) using built-in sensors.

The long-range mesh network allows the wireless device to detect, collect and report dangerous conditions even in very remote locations via Kerlink’s LoRaWAN gateways, while the AI capabilities identify likely fire outbreaks with their exact GPS location. 

The system’s intelligent dashboard features an integrated AI layer, sensors with machine-learning functions, forest fire prediction, on-line risk calculation, smart live maps of terrain, real-time heat maps and alarm scenarios.

“Our technology and Kerlink’s very wide LoRaWAN coverage allow forest and wildlands managers to expand their monitoring far beyond traditional capabilities of smoke detection and early fire observation,” said Olcay Taysi, co-founder of NetOP Technology. “By predicting where fires are likely to start, the Forest Capsule system helps officials spend their monitoring and surveillance activities more effectively.”

Sensaiotech in Brazil using AI algorithms in the smart farm technology to monitor wildfires. It works with French tech giant Thales and Nvidia on AI predictive algorithms and sensors for the SensaIoTech FireWatch that can indicate the areas with a high risk of wildfires.

Satellite forest fire detection

Ororatech, based in Munich, launched its first thermal sensor FOREST-1 in 2022 for monitoring forest fires and with the first commercial sensor FOREST-2 earlier this year it has established a network of sensors that continuously monitors the Earth’s temperature on a global scale. Within just three minutes, the sensors can alert customers if their assets are at risk, ensuring timely action. Worldwide coverage is ensured through continuous real-time situational awareness data through the Wildfire Intelligence solution, detecting fires of any size, day or night, down to a single tree. It now has operations across Canada, the USA, and Brazil.

IC Eye in Finland has a different approach, using the world’s largest satellite constellation in orbit with side aperture radar (SAR) for monitoring the ground. The constellation enables monitoring wide forest areas for possible wildfires, around the clock and in any weather for fast response.

Sierra Wireless, now a subsidiary of Semtech, is using the latest chipset from Sony Semiconductor Israel for a 5G module for the Internet of Things (IoT) that also supports unlicensed spectrum communications protocols and satellite connectivity.

The 5G HL7900 module supports the 3GPP Release 15, 16 and 17 for LTE-M/NB-IoT that will enable it to support evolving network configurations and new features over time. It also includes sub-GHz and 2.4GHz integrated radios supporting IEEE 802.15.4 based protocols such as Wi-Sun, U-Bus Air, wM-Bus, and additional standard and proprietary point-to-point mesh technologies.

Firefighting drones

Then there is the technology for tackling the fires.

Researchers from Empa and Imperial College London are developing a heat-resistant drone that can analyze the source of danger at close range in the event of a forest fire. This allows firefighters to optimize the strategy of a high-risk operation before entering the danger zone.

The insulating jacket made of aerogel allows the FireDrone to collect and forward data from the scene of a fire even in extremely hot conditions

“Before they go directly into the danger zone, the firefighters naturally don’t know what exactly awaits them and what difficulties they will encounter,” says Mirko Kovac, head of Empa’s Sustainability Robotics Laboratory and the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial College London.

The prototype of the FireDrone has already performed well in initial tests at Empa’s flight arena in Dübendorf. The flight characteristics and controllability of the drone, which is about 50 centimeters tall, were excellent even with an aerogel insulation jacket and an additional built-in cooling system, as well as aluminium cladding to reflect heat.;;;;


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