ANU water glider prototype. Picture: Jamie Kidston/ANU.
ANU water glider prototype. Picture: Jamie Kidston/ANU.

Defence system to prevent bushfires

After catastrophic bushfires tore through parts of the country last summer, better ways to detect and prevent future fires have been explored ever since.

Now, a new partnership between Optus and The Australian National University (ANU) will see a national defence system developed that aims to detect bushfires and put them out early.

Advanced research and hi-tech solutions to predict, identify and extinguish blazes will be produced at the ANU-Optus Bushfire Research Centre of Excellence, it was announced on Thursday.

The program will run until 2024 with the first focus being the development of an autonomous ground-based and aerial fire detection system.

In its early stages, a trial will also run involving infra-red sensor cameras being placed on towers in the ACT's bushfire-prone areas, allowing the Territory's Rural Fire Service to visually monitor and spot bushfires before becoming out of control.

Bushfires are expected to cost the country about $30 billion over the next 30 years, according to the ANU, with its modelling suggesting $8.2 billion could be saved over that period with early detection.

Devastation in Moreton National Park after the Currowan fire in NSW. Picture: Supplied
Devastation in Moreton National Park after the Currowan fire in NSW. Picture: Supplied

The university's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt, said the aim was to develop a system that found a fire within minutes of ignition and extinguished it soon after.

"ANU is designing and looking to build highly innovative water gliders with autopilots that will extinguish fires within minutes of them igniting," he said.

"When it comes to fires, every second counts.

"As we saw this season, these fires can cause massive destruction to our environment, homes and infrastructure and they cost lives.

"That's why we are building an integrated defence system to protect Australia from catastrophic fires. This will detect and attack fires before they grow."

ANU water glider prototype. Picture: Supplied
ANU water glider prototype. Picture: Supplied

Optus Enterprise managing director Chris Mitchell said the partnership combined strengths and resources that would make a difference in building the nation's resilience and capabilities for bushfires.

"We apply innovation to solve issues and improve outcomes, and for communities in areas prone to bushfire, there is no bigger challenge than battling out-of-control fires," he said.

"Our infra-red sensor pilot will be the first of many technologies which test for early detection, which is absolutely critical to containing disasters before they destroy lives, homes, wildlife and the environment."

Originally published as Defence system to prevent bushfires

Landscape completely burnt near Sassafras, NSW, in January. Picture: Supplied
Landscape completely burnt near Sassafras, NSW, in January. Picture: Supplied