September 29, 2020

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Bushfire mapping tech deployed to aid Australian army

To assist the Australian army in the South Australian bushfires, a real-time aerial mapping has been deployed to support the Californian fire season.

According to a media report, the technology was tested at the Kangaroo Island fire front using a single-engine Piper aircraft flown 10,000 feet in the air.

It was developed by an Adelaide-based company and the images taken by the aircraft will help the army plan recovery and relief operations.

The founder and chief executive officer of the organisation noted that the pro bono work meant the company could successfully test its technology. It uses specialist thermal imaging cameras, high-precision GPS, and advanced data processing software.

Unlike several other similar tech, this system costs less than A$100,000 and can be put on planes that cost less than A$100,000, the officer added. This means that there can be multiple systems across the state.

The report explained that this system is cheaper than the traditional approach to fire mapping that involves a small number of high-value assets. Also, its systems are shipped from Australia and operated by local pilots in fire danger regions worldwide.

The technology was commercialised more recently after the company was part of the Venture Catalyst Space program at the University of South Australia’s Innovation and Collaboration Centre, the report said.

The programme is now opened for applications for its third intake from June to December and is looking to help international companies break into the space sector.

OpenGov reported on another aerial mapping technology being used to recover and reduce future fire risks. Airborne Research Australia (ARA), located in Adelaide, is creating free 3D high-resolution maps of the devastation caused by the bushfires.

press release claimed the maps would help communities, emergency services agencies. and researchers to plan recovery.

Low, slow flights by crewed motor gliders equipped with light detection and ranging (LIDAR), hyperspectral sensors, and high-resolution RGB cameras collect data for the maps.

LIDAR uses light from a laser to measure the distance of a target by illuminating it with a laser and measuring the reflected light with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can be used to make digital 3D maps of the target.

High-resolution RGB cameras complement data from LIDAR and hyperspectral sensors to produce images with 6-8 cm pixel size over large areas of land.

It then renders this mapping data in three dimensions and animates it as fly-throughs to simplify viewing.

The aim is to make all this data available to the public, particularly those directly affected, in order to help them recover their natural landscape.

The sensors can map in unprecedented detail landscape and forest features that are not visible with standard aerial photography or satellite data or from the ground.

The combination of LIDAR and hyperspectral sensors provides centimetre resolution detail, which allows for detection of the location of such habitats and the state and structure of the undergrowth with LIDAR as well as the state of health of the surviving vegetation with hyperspectral scanning.