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Fighting Forest Fires Before They Get Big—With Drones

Wired Magazine writeup on FUEGO

Concept

About FUEGO

The concept behind FUEGO is shown in the figure above, created by Robin E. Lafever of LBNL. In this figure we see a cutaway diagram of the payload and its spacecraft bus (foreground) sensing a patch of California using its several megapixel infrared sensor arrays (pixels shown) and downlinking its data about once per minute to a ground station. On the ground, the images are processed by a real-time geospatial information system (GIS) whose job it is to estimate the risk that a hot spot could grow into a serious fire. GIS’s, like Berkeley’s KellyLab, maintain a huge database of information on land uses, rainfall, flammability, habitation density, and many other factors that control urgency.

Imagine placing a rather ordinary infrared astronomy satellite into geosynchronous orbit, where it can hover above a fixed geographic longitude and study a portion of the Earth 24/7. Astronomical satellites are exceedingly sensitive! and, when we ran the numbers, could sense the outbreak of wildfires very early in their growth, when they are easier to contain and manage.

The components of such a satellite are illustrated in the figure below, taken from the technical paper by Pennypacker et al October 2013.

Calculations show that with a reasonable half-meter aperture telescope and a contemporary multi-megapixel staring array sensor (as contrasted with the traditional scanning diode sensor), an extraordinary signal to noise ratio can be achieved, which is essential to quickly and reliably detect small scale (megawatt) wildfires with high confidence and low false alarm rates.

Project Team

Carl Pennypacker

Astrophysicist – Space Sciences Lab, UC Berkeley & Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Mike Lampton

Astrophysicist – Space Sciences Lab, UC Berkeley & Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Maggi kelly

Professor – College of Natural Resources UC Berkeley

Scott stephens

Professor – College of Natural Resources UC Berkeley

Chris schmidt

Lead Engineer – GOES Fire Detection

Claire Poppett

Astrophysicist – Space Sciences Lab & UC Berkeley

Robin Lafever

Engineer and Designer – Space Sciences Lab, UC Berkeley & Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Donn Walklet

Lead Business Development

Jim Niswander

Engineer – San Diego Lead

Bill Kruse

GIS and Software Engineering

Nalini Elkins

Enterpreneur and Director of Friends of the Fire Fighters

Bonnie Thurber

Project Management Consultant – Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Associate

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