Monday, 17 February 2020 10:09

UniSA fire-mapping system helped fight Kangaroo Island fires Featured

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Images taken from the air show the extent of the fire-front. Images taken from the air show the extent of the fire-front. Supplied

FireFlight, an aerial fire-mapping system developed at the University of South Australia's Innovation and Collaboration Centre, was used in the fight against the massive blazes that enveloped Kangaroo Island recently, to support efforts by other agencies to fight the fires.

A statement from UniSA said the data collected by the system helped the Australian Army to begin recovery operations as well.

The system was used from a single-engine Piper aircraft flying at about 10,000 ft and Army personnel collected imagery to plan recovery and relief operations.

Thermal sensors connected to a GPS and computer, mounted in a light aircraft, are used. Flight management software, which ties the system together, provides pilot navigation, camera control, data communication and real-time image interpretation.

Software on the FireFlight ground-based servers receives the fire maps from the aircraft, combines them with other useful geographic information, and makes the result available on a secure website.

FireFlight founder and chief executive Dr Paul Dare, who began developing the image mapping system some 15 years ago, commercialised it after taking part in the Venture Catalyst Space program at Unsays ICC.

fireflight big

Images taken by specialist thermal imaging cameras. Supplied

“During my time as a volunteer firefighter, I could see the impact that climate change was having on the frequency and severity of bush fires in Australia and overseas, which is when I decided to use my skills as an airborne imaging specialist, to develop a fire mapping system,” Dr Dare said.

“The invaluable mentorship and support I received as part of the Venture Catalyst Space program, has supported the development of a commercialised product that’s already being used to fight Australia’s bushfires.”

Associate ICC director Jasmine Vreugdenburg was pleased to see FireFlight make such a valuable contribution during the bushfire emergency.

“Commercialising business ideas that use technology to solve real world problems is a core function of the ICC, and we're really proud to see that FireFlight has, and is making a significant impact on our capacity to fight fires and recover from them,” she said.

“This is an instance where we have seen an innovation that is so significant in the Australian environmental context quickly become available and useful.

“The Venture Catalyst Space Program provides invaluable support to get concepts project ready and connections to key industry partners, which is critical to helping companies such as FireFlight to develop products and go to market with their technology.”

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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