Preventing wildfires through ultra-early detection

The devastation caused by wildfires makes headlines every year. So far in 2021, we’ve seen images of Turkey and Greece ablaze. In 2020, large swaths of Australia were scorched. In 2019, the world watched as the Amazon burned. In the western United States, “fire season” lengthens and worsens every year. These blazes cause not only enormous humanitarian and economic hardship, but also have a massive environmental impact. In addition to wiping out animal and plant life, wildfires emit between 5 and 30 tons of carbon per hectare. Add up all the land that burns globally in an average year and we’re looking at up to 13 billion metric tons of additional carbon in the atmosphere annually (out of an estimated 50 billion metric tons in total).

One of many headlines on the global impact of wildfires. Image: NBC.

When fires start in remote regions, blazes can quickly spread out of control before anyone is even aware. Traditional fire monitoring systems rely on ground-based cameras or satellite imaging to see smoke or flames and alert local firefighters, but by the time they detect them, it’s often too late. To potentially arrest a wildfire, you need both a sophisticated early detection system and a reliable means of transferring that information from remote areas back to the people who can help.

Berlin-based Dryad Networks is addressing the need for early detection, and they have partnered with Swarm to transfer their data out of remote areas.

Dryad’s mission is to fight wildfires – and their impact on climate change – through ultra-early detection and alert. Silvanet is Dryad’s solar-powered sensing system that uses AI to detect abnormal patterns of gas in the air. Using this method, Dryad’s sensors are able to detect a new fire within 30 to 60 minutes, depending on sensor placement. “Time is of the essence in these situations,” says Carsten Brinkschulte, Dryad’s CEO and co-founder. “Our system can detect fires while they’re still smoldering, before they become dangerous open flames.”

“Time is of the essence in these situations. [Dryad’s] system can detect fires while they’re still smoldering, before they become dangerous open flames.”

A Dryad Silvanet fire detection sensor. Image: Dryad Networks.

The remaining challenge in fire prevention is transmitting the detection signal from extremely remote sites back to the fire brigades who can quickly intervene. Dryad’s solution is specifically designed to address the outstanding need for fire sensing in remote areas, where there are no passersby to report early signs of a fire. This means that Dryad’s sensors typically operate in regions without cellular coverage. To solve this connectivity challenge, Dryad turned to Swarm for an affordable, remote connectivity solution.

Swarm provides the world’s lowest-cost, global satellite connectivity for IoT devices. Swarm’s constellation of 120 satellites covers every point on Earth, enabling data transmission from even the most remote corners of the world. Dryad pairs their own proprietary LoRa-based mesh network with Swarm satellite modems to create a reliable connectivity system that can operate anywhere. “Swarm will provide the backbone of connectivity for our entire network,” says Carsten. “We operate in such remote areas that there is often no mobile infrastructure, so we can’t even use 2G, let alone 4G. As we deploy our devices, Swarm will be our gateway to the Internet, via space.”

“Swarm will provide the backbone of connectivity for our entire network. We operate in such remote areas that we can’t even use 2G, let alone 4G. Swarm will be our gateway to the Internet, via space.”

A Swarm-enabled Dryad gateway. Image: Dryad Networks.

Swarm’s low-cost hardware and data service also made it the perfect solution for Dryad. With 10 billion acres of forest globally and Dryad’s plans to operate around the world, that’s a tremendous amount of land to cover. Traditional satellite solutions would be prohibitively expensive for large-scale deployments like this, but Swarm makes it economically feasible for Dryad to place as many sensors as are needed in a given area –  in some cases, up to one sensor every 100 meters. Dryad is currently deploying its Silvanet system throughout Europe, the United States, Australia, and more, utilizing Swarm as the connectivity link between its sensor gateways and the Internet.

With Dryad, local authorities and fire brigades will be alerted to fires while they are still manageable. Whether lightning strikes a tree or a camper fails to fully extinguish their cooking fire, Dryad’s IoT sensors will be the first line of defence in avoiding some of the headline-making wildfires we are all too familiar with. Swarm enables Dryad to deploy their sensors everywhere they’re needed, without worrying about lacking critical connectivity infrastructure or breaking the bank. Wildfire monitoring is exactly the kind of application that Swarm was founded to support with our low-cost global connectivity infrastructure, and we look forward to continuing to help Dryad fulfill its mission of reducing wildfires and combating climate change!

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