Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) along with Professor Serge Wich (University of Liverpool John Moores) recently disseminated the modified drone technolgy for forest fires detection and monitoring hosted by CIMTROP University of Palangka Raya (UPR) on Tuesday 17 July, 2018. The local fire fighters, stakeholders, government agencies, and NGO were invited in the workshop themed “ Developing Local Capacity for Using Heat Sensors on Drone to detect and Monitor Peat Fires”. event was hosted by CIMTROP University of Palangka Raya.
The peat fires have been undoubtedly a long and complicated issue in Central Borneo – a province that is home to 1.574 villages – that should be the largest piece on Indonesian Borneo map! The giant flame occurs as the seasonal and predictable phenomenon in Central Kalimantan. “The medium forest fire seems to occur every 4-5 years, whereas the huge fires sweep every 9-10 years” said Hendri, BNF’s senior field staff.
Following the abovementioned issue, there seems to be an urgency for developing a new technology that could help assisting detection and monitoring of the (possible) peat fires. A technological innovation that could penetrate deep below the surface of the peat to spot heat (of possible fire) and send the data back to the operator for further actions.
Such innovation has been developed by Prof. Serge who collaborates with BNF on a Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) grant by modifying six-propeller drone with the installation of thermal imaging and visual spectrum cameras to spot the heat on and below the peat surface that is sometimes left undetected by satelite sensor due to thick smoke or the small fires that limit the sensing.
Dr. Mark Harrison, Co-Director of BNF, outlined three goals of the project; 1) to develop thermal imaging to detect the fire spot via drone; 2) test the system in Kalimantan; and 3) to demonstrate the tech to develop the local capacity.
During discussion session, there were several questions raised regarding the future implementation of that unmanned aerial vehicle, some of those are whether the prototype could spot the fire under thick smoke and tight tree covers, integration of the drone with the underground sensors, and data synchronization for the drone from related agencies.
“You really have to listen very carefully to all the teams who work in the field that later use this technology so that it can help you design and define further alghoritm to develop the technology that fits their needs to be used in a larger scale” Serge added.
The development is not without any challenge. The problem lies on the battery life that leads to the short-time flying duration between the range of 10-15 minutes. However, such issue has been previously predicted. The new power source will be developed in the future to make the drone survive longer on the air to optimize its function.
Current prototype has transformed drone into more serious role, making the fire detection and monitoring into a new level. In the future, the function of the prototype is not merely limited to fire detection, but it can also be developed for monitoring the key species, nest surveys, vegetation, biodiversity, and other complex issues within the unaccessible forest areas.
The workshop has shed new lights to local communities on the application of the new technological advances that will help them in the future to fight for the fires. We thank the UK Government through Darwin Initiative that has provided us with generous support making this event possible. This contribution enables us to learn about drone prototypes that could be a future solution for early detection of peat fires in Borneo. (AE)