AI protects Australia’s forests from fires

August 1, 2023

Early detection and analysis by network that detects fires in early stages in real time

Australia is following Austria’s example when it comes to high-tech forest fire prevention using artificial intelligence (AI). In the Alpine republic, images from satellites and cameras located on high towers are analysed for this purpose. Australia is going one step further. The company Pano AI (https://www.pano.ai) is setting up a network in good time before the start of the forest fire season that detects fires in their early stages in real time, analyses the seriousness of the threat, alerts emergency services and makes suggestions on how best to fight the fire.

Deep Learning for image analysis

Cameras with a 360-degree viewing angle are installed at high vantage points. They constantly monitor the surrounding forests in search of telltale smoke. The high-resolution cameras, which can see up to 24 kilometres away, use Deep Learning to identify fires, select the threat, pinpoint the location and provide info on the fire’s likely direction of spread and its speed. Images captured by satellites also feed into the early warning and firefighting system.

The system has been tested with cameras at four trial locations and found to be good, so that the Australian government in Canberra was able to award the contract to Pano AI. The costs are estimated at the equivalent of one million dollars. A total of 2.346 million dollars is available for fire protection, a small sum in view of the economic value of the forests that will be protected in the future, amounting to 860 million dollars. As part of the firefighting effort, 14 new cameras will be installed to monitor the Green Triangle. This refers to a rugged bushland in southeastern Australia.

Damages of 50 billion dollars per year

The cost is further put into perspective when one considers that the global cost of forest fires is estimated at $50 billion per year. In 2021, such fires released 6.45 million tonnes of CO2. In 2019 and 2020, three billion animals died or lost their homes in Australian summer fires.

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