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Researchers Seek to Use Drones For Brushfire Forecasting

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  • by toygeek (473120) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:08AM (#42515001) Homepage Journal

    Unmanned Aircraft crash causes Catastrophic brushfire

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Why wait for that to happen? Put flamethrowers on them and get the false positive rate down to zero.
      • by Cryacin (657549)
        You know, if Australia backburned a bit more often, bushfires would rage far less viciously across the landscape.
        • by Scoldog (875927)
          The greater Sydney area had rather extensive backburning a few months back. Problem is, NSW is a large place. Looking at the map that Jeremy Lee posted below, the fires are fairly well spread out.
          • Also it's fucking hot out here. As in - my tyres got sticky in the car park hot out here.
            • by niftydude (1745144) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @03:21AM (#42515615)

              Also it's fucking hot out here. As in - my tyres got sticky in the car park hot out here.

              In fact - it is so hot that the Bureau of Meteorology has just added new colours to its weather forecasting chart - because the previous chart colour range capped at 50C and in the coming weeks we are going to need more.

              I kid you not. [theage.com.au]

            • by jamesh (87723)

              Also it's fucking hot out here. As in - my tyres got sticky in the car park hot out here.

              Bah. Let me know when you park for 10 minutes and your car has sunk into the asphalt.

              Or maybe it's so hot I just forgot where I parked...

        • by donaldm (919619) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:35AM (#42515385)
          Back-burning is a fairly common way of reducing the bush-fire threat and is actually carried out in most Australian cities especially in the cooler months. The problem you have is that Australia is huge (a little smaller then the continental USA) with a population of approximately 22 million compared to the USA's 312 million. Normally when a bush fire starts and is in a remote place it can be very difficult get enough firefighters into the area. It is not feasible to back-burn bush-land unless you have a considerable amount of man-power and resources especially water which may be in short supply.

          Having drone aircraft for bush-file spotting is actually a very good cost effective idea especially if you can fly a fire-fighting team into the area before the fire gets out of control. Unfortunately even as I write we have record temperatures (approx 40 to 44 degrees C) and strong winds and many bush fires that have started today are in difficult to get to areas and almost impossible to put out.
          • by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @04:15AM (#42515835)

            Back-burning is a fairly common way of reducing the bush-fire threat and is actually carried out in most Australian cities especially in the cooler months. The problem you have is that Australia is huge (a little smaller then the continental USA) with a population of approximately 22 million compared to the USA's 312 million. Normally when a bush fire starts and is in a remote place it can be very difficult get enough firefighters into the area. It is not feasible to back-burn bush-land unless you have a considerable amount of man-power and resources especially water which may be in short supply.

            That, and "backburning fire out of control" is not an uncommon headline.

            • Back burning in Oz rarely causes property damage even if it does get out of hand, it's the dry hot weather and strong winds that cause problems, similar conditions to California where 120km/h winds off the desert push the fire along faster than the fire trucks can travel, nobody is allowed to burn off in that kind of weather. Also we have just come out of El-Nina conditions, the two years up to last April were very wet and put a lot of growth in the bush that has now dried out due to it flipping back to dry
        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          It is all but impossible to come even close to back burning enough to prevent these fires, Australia definitely doesn't backburn enough, more often then not it is prevented by greenies or do-gooders that think they are helping the bush by trying to prevent it, however Australia is massive and many of these fires rage in inaccessible bushland, the best we can do is better protect towns and houses, even then many residents are their own worst enemies as they want their big shady gum trees near their houses.
        • You do realise that one two of the Australian states are actually smaller than Texas. So this backburning you speak of, while is a great idea, is quite impractical.
          • by MrKaos (858439)

            You do realise that one two of the Australian states are actually smaller than Texas. So this backburning you speak of, while is a great idea, is quite impractical.

            We've got cattle stations bigger than Texas, but they're owned by the Chinese now...

        • by dbIII (701233)
          One fire this week jumped a decent sized river in Tasmania (normally a cold wet place since it's on the same lattitude as Boston), and others are sending large embers 20km downwind. Backburning is sometimes not enough. Imagine if Halifax Novia Scotia had a couple of weeks where the daily maximum was around 40C for how weird this heat wave is. I'm in the subtropical north and it's been 15C cooler than way down in the south.
          • The Black Saturday fire a couple of years back was also throwing spot fires 20km down wind. That was the hottest day on record for Victoria. The conditions are similar now, the day the fires started was the hottest day ever in Tasmania. I've lived in Oz for 50yrs, we used to get this sort of catastrophic bushfire once every 20yrs, it seems to be once every 4-5yrs since about the mid 90's. El-Nino conditions returned last April, I think people are going to stop complaining about the cost of the desal plants
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You know, if Australia backburned a bit more often, bushfires would rage far less viciously across the landscape.

          Also, if Australia put out fires less often, bushfires would rage far less viciously across the landscape... eventually

          This is mostly joke. But in California the regular burning engaged in by the natives really did keep the brush down and the forests healthy. I don't want to hear anyone whining about the myth of the noble savage, I'm not talking about all natives everywhere. For example, fuck the Aztecs. Regardless, it would have been cool if instead of clear cutting and now depending on controlled burns we

        • Wrong term. Backburning is a firefighting technique whereby you burn fuel back into an oncoming fire to deprive it of fuel and create a containment line. I assume you mean hazard reduction burn (HR) where you burn under milder conditions to reduce fuel load later. Australia has had a run of wet summers which had made it hard to burn off (carry out HR burns) and left us with a massive fuel load. Combine that with extreme temperatures in the mid forties, very low humidity and strong winds and you have a tinde
  • And for the other 363 days of the year we can assume they will remain on the ground?

    They couldn't *possibly* be used to say, spy on us, for instance?

    Missile strike update at 6.

    • Wow it took all of 18 minutes for the tin foil had brigade to chime in.

      • by Scoldog (875927)
        I was thinking it would be good to help catch the bastards who light these fires, then I realized that you'd have to be pretty lucky to catch someone in a state the size of NSW in the act of starting a fire. So hopefully, they don't try and justify this as a reason to spy.
  • by Jeremy Lee (9313) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:29AM (#42515123) Homepage

    This map combines near real-time information (hourly to daily updates) from multiple public agencies to give a composite view of fire incidents affecting Australia.
    http://www.unorthodox.com.au/fire/ [unorthodox.com.au]

    • We've just updated our temperature maps with new colors to indicate the higher temperatures

      http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/temperatures-off-the-charts-as-australia-turns-deep-purple-20130108-2ce33.html [smh.com.au]

      Live from Sydney, sweating through 39 degree Celsius heat (Still not the 43 degree heat they promised us, but it's 4:30 in the afternoon so we still have a few hours for it to heat up).
      • by Macgrrl (762836)

        As a Melbournian I'm slightly amused they are live-blogging the day on the front page of the Fairfax online press. Last Friday it got to 42 or so where I live in the outer suburbs of Melbourne and I had to hunt around for info on whether my train line was running (one of the few that was).

        • by Scoldog (875927)
          To be honest with you, I'm also amused and also a bit over it. Dunno why I need the media to tell me it's hot let alone constantly bombarding me about it.

          It wouldn't be too bad if it was stuff like fire updates (Just found out there is one nearby) but they think it's important enough for me to constantly know how the animals at Taronga Zoo cooled down today, and that people went to the beach to escape the heat. That crap always seems to be talked about whenever I've walked within earshot of a radio or lo
        • by mabinogi (74033)

          It was similar on Saturday. Heaps of stories about how parts of Sydney might reach _38_, and meanwhile Canberra quietly breaks 40.

          But of course, it's forbidden to ever mention that Canberra is consistently hotter than Sydney in summer, otherwise people might forget the unassailable truth that Canberra is always freezing cold.

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      NSW fire incidents updated by the state's Rural Fire Services [google.com.au] - does not autorefresh

      The map for Victoria [vic.gov.au] by the state's "County Fire Authority" with auto-refresh.

  • for navigation; instead of Apple's hastily clobbered contraption; and crash, and cause the exact bushfires they aim to prevent.

    BTW, title mentions Brushfires, summary says Bushfires; which is correct?

    • by Scoldog (875927)
      In Aus, we call them bushfires. To me, brushfire sounds similiar to what we would call a grass fire. Nothing too concerning about them.

      If you hear that a bushfire is coming, get your gear and get the hell out of town.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        (modding)
        A few years ago I lived in a community of 350 strong, facing a massive fire. We abandoned the local camp draught and went to the ridges trying to save a few farmhouses. As the fire blew towards us, a plane came and dumped some phoscheck to slow it down. Then it hit the grass. I estimate it travelled maybe 80-120 km/h and a bunch of us were about 200m from the front. As soon as we saw what was happening, we ran as fast as we could towards the road and flattened ourselves, feeling the flames roll ove

    • by donaldm (919619) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:53AM (#42515493)

      BTW, title mentions Brushfires, summary says Bushfires; which is correct?

      Actually both are correct, however in Austrlia we normally refer to areas that are not cultivated or in a city or town as The Bush [wikipedia.org] hence the term "Bushfire" is used to refer to fires in those area. We also have the term Grass-fire which is rather obvious however this can be quite dangerous as well,

  • by Anonymous Coward
  • by Sasayaki (1096761) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @02:55AM (#42515505)

    Reporting from the ACT, which is a tiny territory wholly within New South Wales.

    Today's tempretures were "real fucking hot", about 38 C/39 C, and the wind is really strong. Whipping up dust all over the place, buffeting the car around as I drove, etc etc. The grass around is quite rich and quite dry, like little golden fields. I actually used the lush grass in a Kindle serial set in Canberra, because it's really pretty and there's a lot of it (and it's very dry). Very, very similar to the big fires that swept through here a decade ago (I was here for that).

    It's overcast and cooler now, but earlier today it wouldn't have taken much to light everything up. Some people who lived out in the rural areas are staying home today because they're expecting fires.

    I expect tomorrow and the day after will be not as bad, because there's a lot of cloud that's moved in, but later in the week will be bad.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      We got to 41 yesterday where I live. Only 37 today with even a tiny bit of rain but windy and there is smoke everywhere and the (really crap) android FireReady app is going off every few minutes.

      You're doing much worse in NSW/ACT today than us in Victoria though. Hope it all passes without incident.

  • Good that finally someone does something about it. Hopefully the drones are flexible enough to check for lice and caries as well.

    Next: Researchers develop context sensitive spell checker :-)

  • I think this is a very use of the value of research, not only to strengthen the preventive live in the deep forest, and improve work efficiency, kill two birds with one stone thing.
  • "We need 24/7 drone coverage of our citizens for... [shakes Magic 8 Ball]... Brushfires!"

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