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Satellite sensors would deliver global fire coverage

19 November 2015

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Wildfires can wreak havoc on human health, property and communities, so it's imperative to detect them as early as possible. That's why NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is working on a concept for a network of space-based sensors called FireSat in collaboration with Quadra Pi R2E, San Francisco.

FireSat would be a constellation of more than 200 thermal infrared imaging sensors on satellites designed to quickly locate wildfires around the globe. Once operational, FireSat would represent the most complete monitoring coverage of wildfires ever from space.

"While many wildfires are reported by 9-1-1 calls soon after ignition, some are not, and delays in detection can lead to rapid escalation of a fire, and dramatic growth of the cost of suppression. The system we envision will work day and night for fires anywhere in the world," said Robert Staehle, lead designer of FireSat at JPL.

The FireSat sensors would be able to detect fires that are at least 35 to 50 feet (10 to 15 metres) wide, within an average of 15 minutes from the time they begin. Within three minutes of detecting a fire from orbit, FireSat would notify emergency responders in the area of the fire, improving support for time-critical response decisions.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Image credit: UCAR - Colorado wildfire simulation model

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