Mayday, Mayday: Forest Fire Early Warning System

dron incencio forestalIn the medical world, doctors have known for many years, and so they coined the clever phrase “Prevention is better than cure”. We can also apply that principle to the scourge of forest fires that affect Galicia.

Despite the fact that means must exist for the extinction of forest fires, we must be very clear, in my opinion, that the key factors in the fight against fires lie in two fundamental factors. The first is the planification and clearing of forests, and the second is an innovative system that I call ATIF, an acronym for Forest Fire Early Warning (Alerta Temprana Incendio Forestal in Spanish).

I’m not going to go into the first factor, as there are people in Galicia who understand and vehemently defend landscape  planification and clearing as the cornerstone of firefighting, and in that I strongly agree. However, I would add that it is necessary to include new technology that until now has not been used for these projects and that could be adopted in a coordinated way. This would involve combining IoTBig Datadrones and artificial intelligence.

This technology would be integrated in a software that could perform an analysis in a matter of seconds that would consist of four phases.

Sensorization capacity

The ability to obtain measurable data from sensors, at a reasonable cost, is something that IoT is already aiding in other areas. The advances in this field are huge, with many companies around the world working and developing more and more solutions.

In the case of fire fighting, there are devices that can detect parameters such as the level of CO2 , carbon monoxide, relative humidity or wind speed in each zone. Depending the preciseness of the measurements will depend on the amount of sensors implanted per square meter and the level of atomization. This technology already exists and sensors are becoming smaller with improved accuracy and battery efficiency, to the point that there will come a time when they are powered exclusively by solar energy. That will be the key in designing a very durable system that is relatively maintenance-free,  unless of course, the sensor is affected by other circumstances such as a fault or breakdown.


The second phase essentially requires a database that provides a mass of information from diverse and reliable sources. In addition to the data provided by IOT devices, this information can be compared with other information that is already in the network and that comes from other sources, such as AEMET.


The immediacy of drones in the verification and monitoring of information provided by the system would be the key to a third phase of a forest fire early warning system, due to the possibilities offered by its thermal or thermographic vision.

Artificial intelligence

With such a huge capacity for information, the last phase centers on the importance of the capacity and speed of analysis provided by artificial intelligence and quantum computers. It is necessary to have large storage capacity systems, capable of processing and filtering information, in order to properly separate and interpret the important data.

It is now, at this time of year, that there is a small respite in forest fires, when we have to analyze these strategic and important issues to safely preserve the lives of people and of our environment.

We have to adjust to the opportunities that technology provides for doing things differently in order to solve the inherent problems in our lives. We should apply the great Albert Einstein’s famous quote: “If you want different results, don’t do the same thing over and over again”.

Original article by Jose Antonio Ferreira Dapia, Technology Consultant.
Translated by Conchi Fuentes, Linking English.