This summer, a record-breaking heatwave in the Arctic Circle has caused wildfires that will leave lasting effects on biodiversity, air quality, and forest health. The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) estimates 100 megatons of CO2 were released by June fires alone.
Although wildfires are a natural occurrence in nature, we can see they are getting stronger and lasting longer. Munich-based startup OroraTech decided to make global wildfire a top priority and develop an early wildfire detection and monitoring service that will help protect assets and forests. A service designed to notify users, such as fire brigades, of hotspot detection early enough to help them execute fire management strategies.
100 Nanosatellites Detecting Wildfires from Hours to Minutes
OroraTech was founded in 2018 as a spin-off from the Technical University of Munich. The start-up develops their own nanosatellites, also known as CubeSats, with miniaturized thermal infrared cameras that will globally detect and monitor forest fires with a much higher temporal resolution than the current satellites. OroraTech is developing a constellation of about 100 nanosatellites that will greatly improve the overall coverage and overpass an area every 30 minutes. The nanosatellites have a patent-pending camera for precise temperature measurement and an on-orbit processing unit. This allows the data to be sent to Earth faster than the larger geostationary satellites that are already in orbit. With today’s technology, they can make the satellites contain all of the requirements with the size of just 10x10x34 cm³ or the size of an average shoebox. In comparison, usually, two cameras are needed on the satellite and can be up to the size of a refrigerator.
The nanosatellites have a 40 percent higher payload, meaning they can carry more equipment that is needed for the technology to perform and detect potential wildfires. They are cheaper to develop due to their small size and the commercial off-the-shelf materials used to build the hardware which will increase the performance. The constellation will be built step by step over the next few years and will have all of the necessary components for forest fire detection. The first launch is expected for mid to late 2021.
Global Wildfire Detection and Monitoring
OroraTech has made it their mission to also build a service that will keep Earth sustainable and to help protect our already vulnerable forests. When it comes to early detection, OroraTech analyzes high-resolution thermal images from the existing satellites that send data to Earth multiple times a day. Much of the current data contain false positives of fire and can only see individual pixels. Their satellites will add to the existing data and speed up the detection times of wildfires from hours to minutes.
While COVID-19 caused lockdowns all over the world, wildfire fire season brought major concerns with firefighter safety and fire management strategies as stay at home orders remained for a great portion of the year. OroraTech’s wildfire detection and monitoring service allowed its users to continue monitoring their area and not have to only rely on cameras, watchtowers, drones or residents. During the lockdown, the remote solution helped detect fires before they were reported to the control center and showed the location to firefighters that needed to respond. The service is not replacing these valuable resources, but is adding additional wildfire data and making it an all-in-one wildfire monitoring system to give users the fastest detection times and analytical tools.
OroraTech stands out from competitors mainly by combining a large amount of data from 12 satellite data sources, ranging from NASA, ESA, NOAA, EUMETSAT, and JAXA, to provide extensive data quality. This gives them the ability to monitor wildfires in near real-time to evaluate the risk of their area of interest. There are many resources and methods used to detect these fires, such as drones, airplanes, watchtowers, and patrols on the ground, that are not able to react fast enough to control the fire before it spreads, especially in large, scarce populated areas. They can require secondary checks to confirm if there is a possible fire, which can delay the response time to the burning area. By merging all the resources and satellite data into one service, wildfires can be managed faster. Multiple satellite sources provide the data for the wildfire system, allowing users and control centers to react before a fire becomes uncontrollable for the fire brigades that have to tackle the burning regions. This data is quickly processed through a cloud-based processing framework and is accessible through a wildfire API and an innovative application. The system offers users and researchers an advanced tool for fire analytics to understand fire risks and behaviors with various map forms.
Firefighters can use the wildfire detection and monitoring service to see the fires on a global scale or in a customized area of interest. This also includes the different options of map layers, such a topography, vegetation, fire danger index (from the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System), and weather, to help make it easier to analyze and identify fire events. The current latest version of the wildfire detection and monitoring service is being used in Australia and Canada in preparation for upcoming wildfire seasons.
OroraTech’s system enables a significant reduction in the social and economic damage associated with forest fires, as well as a reduction in CO2 emissions from fires, making a significant contribution to a more sustainable planet. Over 90 percent of wildfires are caused by humans due to carelessness and not following fire warnings and protocols, especially in already dry desert areas. OroraTech gives users the benefits of four main features consisting of risk assessment, early detection, real-time monitoring, and damage analysis. Risk analysis helps to determine the definite origin and time of a fire. By using vegetation, weather, and topography data, the service provides a base to encourage preventative measures to help preserve nature and biodiversity. Early detection and real-time monitoring are maintained due to the numerous satellite sources integrated into the service. Users can then afterwards analyze damage from burn scars and historical data of the wildfire hotspot detection in the area.
To conclude, OroraTech has developed a global wildfire detection and monitoring service with multiple satellite sources to protect forests. They are developing their own nanosatellite constellation to add to the existing data and speed up the detection times. Once the fire has been detected from the nanosatellites, artificial intelligence and inter-satellite communication will reduce the time to notify the affected users in a matter of minutes. OroraTech is an international team of 30 engineers, scientists, and business developers, with a passion for wildfire detection and technology. On the way to the company’s vision of creating a more sustainable planet powered by information from space, the applications will be expanded step by step. OroraTech is constantly expanding existing collaborations with numerous universities, research institutes, and companies.
For more information, go to www.ororatech.com