Grand Challenges Grants: Observing Wildfires Through UAVs and Fire Imaging Technologies
Wildfires and Wildland-Urban-Interface (WUI) fires have emerged in the past decade as severe societal problems due to several factors, including ill-informed past land management policies, increasing population in the WUI, and, perhaps more importantly, climate change. These wildland fire problems are having negative impacts on the human system, the ecological system and the climate system, and despite spending $2 billion per year in the US on fire suppression efforts alone, the frequency, severity and cost of devastating wildland fires continues to increase. One of the barriers to mitigate wildland fire risk is the limited fundamental understanding of wildland fire dynamics due to the lack of observation data. Wildland fire observations are typically limited to small-scale laboratory experiments or to field-scale experiments. This study is aimed at using recent advances in technology — in particular Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and fire imaging technologies — to bring much needed observation data that can be used to increase the scientific understanding of wildland & WUI fire behavior and also provide innovative solutions to real-time incident response. The project will focus on two topics: (1) tracking of the fire line through monitoring of the flame location; and (2) measurements of the flux of firebrands produced during a wildland or structure/building fire.