September 23, 2021

The Department of Defense will expand a program that assists intelligence agencies in tracking wildfires

2 min read

The Pentagon has announced that a trial programme that uses imagery from ground sensors, satellites, drones, and cameras to assist track and control wildfires will be extended. The effort began in 2019, with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) producing a tool that tracks fires’ location and shape. NGA provides firefighting organizations with updated maps in 15-minute intervals on locations where fires are fast developing as part of this programme.

NGA spokesman said the agency couldn’t comment on which satellites provide the images or any of the data sources used for the “Firefly” project. The Firefly tool was initially utilized by the State of California as well as the California National Guard in 2019. In 2020, the US Forest Service requested that the Department of Defense make this service available state-wide. “Recognizing the pilot program’s continued usefulness, the Department of Defense recently authorized an extension of Firefly assistance through September 2022,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby stated on September 3.

“This extension will provide the National Interagency Fire Center and the Department of Defense time to find a sustainable long-term solution for Firefly’s future funding and operation,” he stated. The US Space Force provides infrared sensor data from the missile-warning satellites to assist domestic agencies in detecting and tracking fires. Satellite data is coupled with other information to improve fire mapping accuracy and predict where wildfires will occur.

Fireball International, an Australian firm launched in February 2020, has created an artificial intelligence framework that detects and predicts wildfires using images from satellites and ground-centred cameras. According to a news release, the company uses Amazon’s cloud to analyse 2.5 million photos, more than 30 gigabytes of satellite data per day. It can inform authorities of probable wildfires within 3 minutes of smoke detection.

Fireball International saves lives, property, and the environment by detecting, assessing, and mapping wildfires early. It was established in February 2020 and analyses image data from the third-party ground-centred camera and satellite platforms to detect and anticipate wildfires reliably. Fireball International has built an effective wildfire detection platform using AWS services such as Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), handling more than 2.5 million images more than 30GB of satellite data per day and informing appropriate officials of prospective wildfires within 3 minutes of smoke detection. Fireball International started as a research initiative at the University of California, Berkeley, to see how technology may be used to improve wildfire prediction and detection.

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