NSW bushfires: inquiry leans in hard on remote sensing

By on 26 August, 2020

The NSW government has called for a heavier reliance on remote sensing technology following an independent inquiry into the devastating bushfires that raged across the state this past summer.

Released this week, the report details 76 wide ranging recommendations, which the government has pledged to adopt. Remote sensing was identified as an invaluable aid, but also a key area where state agencies missed opportunities to help mitigate the extent of the blazes.

The report urged the establishment of a spatial technology acceleration program that would both help coordinate existing capabilities and drive the advancement of new technology to be put to use in monitoring and mitigating the risk.

“Remote sensing technology was used before and during the fires but was not used as extensively as it could have been given technological advances,” the report said.

“It is now timely for NSW, which has a long history in this field, to establish a spatial technology acceleration program.”

NASA thermal imaging of 2019/20 Australian bushfires.

The report further stated that as part of the acceleration program, “government should support the deployment of remote sensing and picture processing technologies to monitor and audit how well asset protection zones and defendable space are being maintained, especially around towns.”

“The challenges of the 2019-20 season also present the state with a unique opportunity — to harness our significant research and technology strengths to become a world leader of bushfire research, including technology development and commercialisation, with a particular focus on extreme bushfire behaviour,” the report said.

The report noted NSW is already home to major businesses and university entities pushing the use and advancements of remote sensing technologies such as UAVs, satellite imagery, LiDAR and artificial intelligence, and that this presented an opportunity for the state to become a “major world centre” for bushfire research, technology development, and commercialisation.

In order to support this effort, the inquiry recommended that the NSW government establish a bushfire technology fund, citing the successful implementation of the medical devices fund as an example. According to the report, the goal of the fund would be to “assist with the rapid development of technologies and services to sense, fight, mop up after and protect from bushfires”.

“The next fire season is already upon us,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this week. “The release of this report is timely – we know our job is not done in recovering and rebuilding in the aftermath of those horrific bushfires.”



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