Australian Satellite Will Detect Upcoming Bushfires in Vegetation Areas

Australian vegetation areas face a devastating bushfire this year. Scientists believe satellites can warn us by analyzing where bushfire will occur next

Australian Satellite Will Detect Upcoming Bushfires in Vegetation Areas
Australian Bushfire

Australian Satellite Will Detect Upcoming Bushfires in Vegetation Areas


Australian bushfire this year has shaken the whole world as we lost millions of biodiversity. If scientists had any clue on that, they could have taken proper measures. As a consequence of this calamity, scientists are now willing to develop satellites in a way that can detect the place where bushfires can start.

Satellites are small spacecraft with infrared detectors. These detectors will focus on the dominant vegetation in Australia like eucalypt trees and shrubs.

The gathered data by the satellite will categorize moisture content and fuel load in the forests.

Experts will then take the required steps to fight the risks and mitigate them.

The bushfire that occurred in the 2019/2020 season was a record-breaking one. The litter layer floor is abundant in the forests, and hot and dry weather was perfect for ignition conditions.

Satellites are being used by the Australian researchers so that they can investigate fire potential with accuracy.

Europe's Sentinel-2 is such a spacecraft with the camera and shortwave infrared channels. The pieces of equipment are capable of checking vegetation state.

But the processes can be more efficient in detecting bushfire when they include a bespoke mission. With this mission, experts can get information that is more relevant and accurate. The team under the supervision of the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra believes this.

The team has used new sensors at the core of their system. The manufacturers developed the sensors to fulfil astronomical purposes.

The eucalypt species are famous for their unique characteristic, and it is their elegant bands. The satellite's high-speed detectors can delineate reflected light into those bands of eucalypt.

A Fenner School of Environment and Society expert, Dr Marta Yebra, who is currently an InSpace Mission Specialist, says, "We're trying to detect small changes in the spectral signatures of the trees. So we might look for structural changes such as changes in the number of leaves in the canopy; changes in the lignin content; changes in the water content. All this is related to the conditions that affect the amount of fuel available to fires."


According to Prof Rob Sharp, the infrared detectors are products that came from the Giant Magellan Telescope's (the biggest telescope on Earth) R&D work. He serves in the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics as an instrument scientist.

He also confirmed that they are planning to send a small telescope on the space station. They will do astronomy with that and then will turn it so that they can see what is happening at the ground.

He says, "There are really interesting applications in the infrared for not only the bushfire work but for agricultural monitoring; and also mineralogical surveys, which is a big deal here in Australia."

From building, testing to launching, the ANU team needs two years. The suitcase-sized gadget will have a resolution on the ground of about 10m. 

Later they will perform the investigation by using a series of small spacecraft. Hopefully the "eyes overhead" will see better.

Australia is now boosting up its space activities. This country decided setting up a national space agency in July 2018.