In the context of the horrible bush fires happening in Australia, we can’t stop thinking on technologies that we use in the built environment that could be implemented in the protection of the wildlife and vegetation.
Devastating, yet regular and predictable events like bush fires is something we have to try to resolve. The environmental, moral and monetary cost for the inaction is just too high to pay.
Satellite imagery of vast forest areas could be used, in order to collect data for bush fire image recognition. This is already being offered as a service, we hope it is put to use as much as possible.
Building Information Modelling or Living Information Modelling
We are talking so much of creating digital twins of the built assets and the same logic could be applied to the natural world. By creating digital parametric models of the environment we could extract the data in various formats and feed it to multiple simulation software. We could create a 3D BIM model of a forest with all the parameters for each tree – it’s age, type, last time it was cut or burnt, height, amount of oil in the tree based on the size etc. and let it grow digitally. Parallel to the digital growing – data as humidity, sun, rain could help the models develop in the right direction. Having this data available we could run constant simulations on how a fire would spread and define most critical areas. There is already software like Spark that enables simulation, but the testing itself is not a regular process, it is not linked yet to “digitally living” data that constantly checks against the real world and reports.
Drones could be used for constant monitoring. As their capacity for carrying load increases they could also be used for firefighting. We are aware that there are ongoing research in the area, we are just hoping this will come to use as soon as possible.
BIM models overlay to Point clouds
With the use of point clouds that could be generated from simple drone flights and with the use of photogrammetry, 3D point-cloud models could be created and overlay-ed with the BIM 3D models of the forests. This could show anomalies from the expected development and flag issues early on. Very similar process we use in construction. Check if things go as planned.
Sensors are already being used, as they are becoming more and more common and affordable, their quantity could increase to improve the data.
AI and Digital Disaster Predictive models
By collecting data and rebuilding the physical world digitally we could build numerous scenarios for disaster events and management. With the development of AI this could become even more efficient and hundreds of scenarios could be tested to find best actions in case of disaster.
Wildlife Alarming Audio Signals
With available data for the start of a bush fire, audio system to alarm the animals could be installed to push them to run away from danger areas. Usually animals get scared by loud noises and this could basically save their life if they are alarmed as early as possible.
Controlled Burning Strategies
Based on digital simulations of the vegetation, soil conditions and weather data – digital controlled strategies for fire could be developed. The digital tools could help define the size, location and time for the cool fires, which are actually an old Aboriginal tradition. In the so-called cool fires animals have enough time to run away and the fires don`t destroy the trees, it only diminishes the possibility from accidental fires by thunderstorm or heat. To help the animals run away from the area various methods as noise signals (suggested above) could be used to push away the animals before the fire begins. Creating fire barriers that enable regular controlled burning and diminish the spread of natural fires is well known Aboriginal method.
To protect the environment will take considerable amount of resources and effort, but being negligent and allowing destruction to happen costs a lot more. Let’s collaborate on issues and technologies that matter!