China pilots wildfire detection sensor network

China pilots wildfire detection sensor network

18 January 2012

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China — China has developed a sensor work that will shorten the fire detection lead time to less than five minutes. A test run of the system was successfully conducted recently in the forest area in Qingyuan prefecture, Guangdong province.

While forests play an important role in global climate and environment, wildfire is common occurrence in China, especially in dry winter, challenges the environmental balance and causes losses in lives and property. According to data release by China’s State Forestry Administration, around 2 per cent of the country’s forest area, or 28 times the landmass of Hong Kong, is destroyed by wildfire every year.

As compete prevention of wildfire is not possible, the best way to protect forests from such fire is early detection and response. Currently the country relies on manned lookout towers and reports from forest visitors to detect fire. Satellite imagery system was also deployed but they are only able to detect large scale fire, rather than occurrences in their early stages; in addition, analysing infrared images is a difficult task, sometimes taking the operators more than one hour to locate the exact fire scene.

The system, ‘Early Stage Wildfire Detection and Prediction Wireless Sensor Network’ was commissioned by the government and jointly developed by Hong Kong based Insight Robotics Limited, Qingyuan Forestry Bureau and Guangdong Academy of Forestry.

During the pilot run, wireless sensor nodes were installed in the forest, forming a self-repairing mesh network. The system would scan a particular area of the forest once every five minutes. The sensors are able to detect changes in humidity, temperature, gas concentrate and infrared level of the specific area where wildfire breaks out. The nodes would send the signal to the control centre within 0.5 seconds, and the operators would immediately locate the fire scene.

In less than three minutes after the fire was ignited, the signals were received by the centre. The operator then released Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to the location to take real time infrared images to estimate the severity of the fire and remedy actions are deployed accordingly to stop the spread of the fire.

The developers of the system claim that even if the censors are burnt, they will be able to release the information to the centre before stopping functioning.

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