A world-first real-time bushfire hazard detection and
warning system using artificial intelligence (AI) is
under development thanks to a new partnership between
The University of Queensland and Google.org, Google’s
Led by UQ’s Professor Hamish McGowan, from the School
of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the project plans
to use AI to trace the movement of embers and deliver
real-time nowcasts of extreme bushfire hazards.
A portable meteorological observation platform, known as the UQ XPOL, making field observations. Image: Atmospheric Observations Research Group, UQ.
“The goal of our work is ultimately to save lives, property
and the environment by providing increased accuracy in
forecasting bushfire movements and alerting community members
and emergency responders before they spread,” Professor
The $1.374 million grant from Google.org will enable UQ
researchers to work on a new and robust capability to
identify and forewarn locations up to 30 kilometres downwind
from the fire front that may come under attack from
embers – sometimes in areas previously perceived as safe.
In addition to philanthropic funding from Google.org,
Google employees will have the opportunity to volunteer
their time to help with this project.
Google Australia Engineering Site Lead Daniel Nadasi said
UQ was charting new territory in bushfire detection.
“Google.org is thrilled to provide support to the UQ team to
help tackle this important issue,” he said.
“The project will benefit Australia by identifying new AI
solutions to detect bushfire activity – early on and in
real-time – with a goal to safeguard at-risk communities,
flora and fauna.
“Initiatives like this will help build a strong and more
resilient digital future for Australia.”
It has been just over two years since Australia’s Black
Summer bushfires burnt an estimated 186,000 square kilometres of land.
The impacts were devastating, with at least 33 people
losing their lives, and fires destroying more than 6000
buildings, as well as killing or displacing an estimated
three billion animals.
“We know that the effects of climate change are causing
more extreme weather events including bushfires across
the world and we are committed to helping find solutions
that can lessen the impact,” Professor McGowan said.
The fallout of the 2019-20 bushfire season also saw
smoke-related health costs climb to $1.95 billion.
There were 429 smoke-related premature deaths in addition
to 3230 hospital admissions for cardiovascular and
respiratory disorders and 1523 emergency attendances for asthma.
Provided by the IKCEST Disaster Risk Reduction Knowledge Service System