Wildfires are a widespread, common and highly destructive phenomenon, annually consuming millions of hectares of vegetation. Whilst in many cases wildfires are an essential part of a natural ecosphere, in others they pose a serious hazard to life and property, and even to aspects of the ecosphere itself.

Understanding likely wildfire behaviour enhances community and infrastructure protection and is key to reducing its human impacts. Existing computer-based behavioural models require an input identifying the “fuel complex” in any given area. The quality of this input data can vary enormously, weakening the accuracy of the model.

Our response to this situation is PHYTOPYR: intelligent, high-resolution fuel mapping to inform and enhance existing wildfire risk models, delivered by remote sensing at regional scale, resolvable to sub-10m grid.

Using the Zephyr High-Altitude Pseudo-Satellite system developed and supplied by our technology partner Airbus Defence and Space, PHYTOPYR provides detailed vegetation survey information as the critical model input. This information can be augmented and integrated with high-resolution LiDAR-based DTM/ DSM data, providing unparalleled accuracy in fuel complex mapping.

PHYTOPYR bridges the gap between empirical models and fuel classification systems, overcoming the need for manual, often broad-brush vegetation assessments, which frequently fail to reflect real-world conditions at meaningful scale.

The integration of PHYTOPYR data with preferred fire behaviour modelling results in a step-change improvement in baseline knowledge: this delivers a commensurate reduction in non-machine inputs and flip-side increase in model performance.

Equally important to community and infrastructure protection are early warning of fire initiation and real-time fire progress monitoring.

To support this stage of the wildfire control process, we have conceived HiSTARS, a technology package designed for mounting on ADS’ Zephyr platform.

HiSTARS can direct the Zephyr to likely fire initiation points, loiter to watch for early signs of ignition, provide locational information for fire control teams, and supply persistent, real-time high-resolution video in a variety of spectra, giving critical update information of fire progress and the nature of material being combusted.

HiSTARS also enables rapid and flexible updating of ecosphere, community and infrastructure risk assessment, to guide emergency coordinators’ decisions on intervention/ evacuation.

Together, PHYTOPYR and HiSTARS combine into a unique tool system for large-area wildfire protection.

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