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We talked with FIRE-RS project

In 2016 the project FIRE-RS started, a project for the early detection of forestal fires in Sudoe area, managed by 3 entities: the University of Vigo (ES), the University of Porto (PT) and the CNRS (FR). Through the use of a nano-satelite and drones, the project gets detailed information- practically in real time- on key aspects as the position and perimeter of the fire seat, infrared images, propagation predictions, (…) which are inmediately shared with the competent authorities in France, Spain and Portugal for their performance.

We talked with Fernando Aguado Agelet, University of Vigo professor and project´s main coordinator.

Interreg Sudoe (IS): Briefly, could you explain what the FIRE-RS project is?

Fernando Aguado (FA): FIRE-RS aims at developing a concept for a system to face forest fires. During the last few years, the Sudoe area have been very affected by fires, with economic and even human losses. This is a very serious problem and, even working vigorously and effectively at different territorial levels, to design this project we started from the premise that there are technologies we can be provided to the involved parties against fires, providing them with tools to facilitate  the decision making process.

FIRE-RS is a system of system that includes thermic and visible earth sensors. These sensors are provided with cameras covering an area of 2 kms. When the cameras detect a fire seat or smoke they sound an alarm and send the first information (extension and time of the fire, among others) to the satellite. This satellite, covering an area of 2500 kms, acts like a communication repeater and transmits the information to the control centre, located in Toulouse.

Having the elevation and local data, the existence of the fire seat is checked and a drone flight plane is launched from Portugal, to check the fire in situ. These drones, provided with high-resolution cameras, collect the information on the location and wind speed at the roof of the trees- this is, between 10-15 meters. From there, the information is transferred to a software to evaluate the potential evolution of the fire.

IS: How long could the fire detection procedure last?

FA: As it is a pilot project, the satellite passes over the Sudoe area about 45 minutes per day. Then, if a fire starts during its passes, the procedure starts immediately. The straight data transmission by the satellite is executed in less than a minute, within milliseconds.

IS: Are there similar satellite prototypes?

FA: This is the fourth satellite launched by University of Vigo. The first one, “Xatcobeo”, was launched in 2012. We also participated in the United Nations program “Humanitarian satellites”, for monitoring in situ climate change. We also take part in the Brasilian Space Agency programme to launch the “Serpens” satellite aimed at monitoring the Amazonas river basis. In the FIRE-RS case, we have incorporated what we called the “matching to matching” concept. This is, the autonomous dialogue between operator-free machines.

IS: Could the satellite fail?

FA: We have gone through the most critical stages, among others, the launching, which took place on 27/12/2018 with a Russian Space Agency rocket. Another critical moment was the storing of the satellite for a month and a half , before its launching. Having been turned off, we had to check its well-functioning and communication. Fortunately, the satellite is now in the stage we call “commissioning”, which means checking the platform enabling communications. All the checkings have been made and everything seems to work perfectly.

In the future, we aim at having a satellites constellation enabling a greater number of measures but at the moment, being a pilot, we don´t have redundancies;[Ana Sofia1]  I mean, other satellites. Multiplying them would make possible that other satellite into orbit takes over in case of failure.

For now, the results point that the only potential failure could be an electronic one but, given the good satellite state, we are very trustful.

IS: How long will the satellite stay into orbit?

FA: We must fulfill the international legislation on Low Earth Orbiting satellite launching, which states that, after its launching, the satellite cannot remain more than 25 years into orbit. In the case of FIRE-RS, we think it will remain around 15 and 18 years. But we have to make a difference between time into orbit and operational time that, based on our experience, we think it will be between 6 months and 2 years after the project’s ending.

IS: You cooperate with firefight agents from different countries (Spain, France, Portugal) under different administrations: how is this work coordinated?

FA: The contact is made individually with every partner. I mean, in the case of the University of Vigo, we are in contact with Axega in Galicia, and local firefighters forces. The rest of the partners do the same with their own competent authorities.

IS: Which ideas do you have in mind after the end of the project?

FA: We are working in the continuity of the project, thinking in incorporating new elements to the system. For instance, unmanned land vehicles or drones with both detection and acting functions. FIRE-RS is an open concept that is able to incorporate more agents and infrastructures.

IS: Can this project be exported to other areas?

FA: Absolutely. In fact, the project aroused some interest in Chile, a very affected area by fires within areas lacked of communication infrastructures. Also, it would be interesting to incorporate other elements like thermal satellites developed in Japan or the European satellite COPERNICUS images. This would enabled adding more data. We actually think that, in the future, we will work more with artificial intelligence, data fusion, integrating information from multiple systems. For instance, in Japan, anyone can send a picture of a fire seat starting through an APP. This allows the active participation of citizenships in fires fight, which is a key factor.


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