Optus and the ANU jointly announced a new partnership to detect bushfires as soon as they start and put then out in minutes.

The ANU announcement

Australia is experiencing unprecedented extreme fire conditions associated with prolonged drought, high temperatures and strong winds. This extreme weather creates catastrophic bushfire conditions that exceed known firefighting technologies – leading to significant ecological, economic, health and social costs. 

In response, Optus and The Australian National University (ANU) are joining forces to develop an innovative national system to detect bushfires as soon as they start and put them out within minutes. 
The ANU-Optus Bushfire Research Centre of Excellence will undertake advanced research and develop novel hi-tech solutions to predict, detect and extinguish blazes before they become deadly. The ambitious program will run until 2025.


Our goal: Rapid Fire Suppression
 

The proposed goal is to detect a fire within one minute from ignition, and extinguish within five minutes.
This revolutionary approach would:

  • DETECT and locate a fire within 60 seconds of ignition
  • COMMUNICATE the location to extinguishing agent
  • DEPLOY accurately targeted aerial vehicle
  • EXTINGUISH fire within five minutes of ignition


Short-term outcomes: proof of concept
 

In the short term, the ANU-Optus Bushfire Research Centre of Excellence will develop and demonstrate a series of ground and aerial based systems for early fire detection and extinguishing. 

To achieve this, ANU will apply their current research into fire ignition risks, and work directly with Optus who will develop and implement suitable communications systems. Optus and ANU will bring in additional industry partners to contribute to other technology development.
Early detection of fires will be explored through:

  1. evaluation of ground-based low-power wide area network meshed sensors
  2. long-range high-fidelity visual and infrared sensing in strategic locations by leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms 
  3. UAV systems for targeted high-fidelity detection of ignitions
  4. foundational communications and compute platforms to support integrated systems
  5. real-time data analytics.


Rapid suppression will be explored through:


Development by ANU of low cost auto-piloted water gliders which can achieve accurate and very rapid fire suppression of small fires at any time of day or night and in all weather conditions.

Technology demonstrations will be conducted with fire management agencies within the first year. Results from proof of concept trials in the ACT will guide future research and contribute to the design of an integrated defence system for implementation across Australia.


Medium to long-term outcomes: A national system

Medium-term goals include the enhancement and integration of technologies to build an optimised national defence system for bushfire detection and response.

In the longer term, a state-of-the-art fire detection sensor for geostationary orbit will be developed to provide much greater sensitivity and ground resolution than existing geostationary Earth observation solutions. The instrument is planned to be launched on the next generation of Optus geostationary communications satellites.


Medium to long-term projects will include: 
 

  1. low Earth Orbit cube-sat constellation to support bushfire planning
  2. geostationary satellite bearing a telescope capability
  3. integration and scaling of autonomous ground-based and aerial detection systems
  4. novel environmentally friendly technology to rapidly extinguish fires after ignition.

The ANU OzFuel low Earth orbit satellite mission for near-real time fuel load and condition analysis, together with ANU research on the environmental management of forests will be implemented to minimise the risk of catastrophic bushfire.


ANU Research Leadership Team


Dr Marta Yebra

Professor Rob Mahony 


Partner with us


The ANU-Optus partnership forms the nucleus of an aspirational approach that is paramount to reducing the future likelihood of catastrophic bushfires. If you are interested in contributing or participating in this significant project, please contact roslyn.prinsley@anu.edu.au for more information.

This story can be read in its original form here.

Website links

Download the brochure here:

The Optus Announcement

Optus announced today:


New ANU-Optus partnership to build national defence system against catastrophic bushfires

Optus and The Australian National University (ANU) have joined forces to develop a revolutionary national system that aims to detect bushfires early and put them out within minutes.

Announced today, the ANU-Optus Bushfire Research Centre of Excellence will undertake advanced research and develop hi-tech solutions to predict, identify and extinguish blazes before they become deadly.

The ambitious program will run until 2024. In the short-term, experts from Optus and ANU will work together to develop an autonomous ground-based and aerial fire detection system.

By 2022, the program proposes launching a constellation of satellites, managed by ANU, to complement the fire detection system. The program will look to be augmented by a geostationary satellite to help spot and track fires as well as deploy extinguishing technologies.

The program will investigate how to use existing and new technologies including infra-red cameras, drones, robotics and satellites. It will also harness expertise and research in space, communications, computer vision, sensing systems, defence, data analytics and bushfire science.  

Bushfires are expected to cost the nation at least $30 billion over the next three decades.  Recent modelling from ANU shows investment in early bushfire detection could save Australia $8.2 billion over the next 30 years.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said: “When it comes to fires, every second counts and there is no point detecting fires quickly if they cannot be extinguished quickly. As we saw this season, these fires can cause massive destruction to our environment, homes and infrastructure and they cost lives. 

“That’s why we are building an integrated defence system to protect Australia from catastrophic fires. This will detect and attack fires before they grow. We hope to develop a system that can locate a fire within the first few minutes of ignition and extinguish it soon afterwards. ANU is designing and looking to build highly innovative water gliders with autopilots that will extinguish fires within minutes of them igniting.

“I want to thank Optus for their vision, support and for joining us in this vital mission that will only become more essential as fires become more frequent, larger and deadly.”

Chris Mitchell, Optus Enterprise Managing Director, said Optus Enterprises’ participation was a natural fit.

“Partnerships like this combine strengths and resources, including Optus’ leading network and satellite capabilities with ANU’s academic leadership. This is what it’s going to take to make a difference to building our nation’s resilience and capabilities for these catastrophic events.

“We apply innovation to solve issues and improve outcomes, and for communities in areas prone to bushfire, there is no bigger challenge than battling out-of-control fires.

“Our infra-red sensor pilot will be the first of many technologies which tested for early detection, which is absolutely critical to containing disasters before they destroy lives, homes, wildlife and the environment.”

The early stages of the program will see a pilot of infra-red sensor cameras launched in the ACT. 

The trial, in partnership with the ACT Rural Fire Service (RFS), will place long-range, infra-red camera systems on towers in bushfire-prone areas in ACT, allowing the ACT RFS to visually monitor and identify bushfires before they become out of control. 

ACT Rural Fire Service Acting Chief Officer Rohan Scott said the pilot technology trialled with ANU and Optus, with support from Minderoo Foundation, is vital and potentially lifesaving work.

“If we are able to improve the speed and accuracy of fire detection it ultimately means we can improve our response and better protect communities and landscapes,” Acting Chief Officer Scott said.

The Optus and ANU collaboration is the starting point for a major national network of partners working together to tackle this critical issue. The network will include the ACT RFS and the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, with other organisations able to join.

The ANU-Optus partnership includes the appointment of a joint Chair for Bushfire Research and Innovation, along with a Research and Innovation fund. This collaboration provides an opportunity for ANU students to learn from real-world experiences, and benefit from employment opportunities, research fellowships and PhD fellowships.

Media enquiries:  
Rob Sharpe
media@optus.com.au  
Tel: (02) 8082 7850  

ANU – James Giggacher

0436 803 488 or media@anu.edu.au  

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