Building a Smarter Forest

The Atlantic

Cutting-edge tech -- algorithms and robots and drones -- could save lives during natural disasters.

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Only you can prevent forest fires. Well, you and a dozen friendly robots.

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That's the argument made by computer scientists M.P.Sivaram Kumar and S. Rajasekaran in a recent article in the Journal of Computing entitled "Path Planning Algorithm for Extinguishing Forest Fires." Their thesis is simple: the vast majority of forests are destroyed by wild forest fires, and current methods of sylvan vigilance -- mainly those involved individual personnel on foot patrol -- are grossly inefficient in identifying emerging threats. Their pre-defined route may be damaged or obscured, inclement weather affects visibility, and life on patrol is boring and "miserable," leading to a lack of attention.  
The automatic forest fire detection and extinguishing system consists of nodes deployed deterministically in a forest area and all the nodes know their location based on coordinate values of a matrix. Each node is equipped with a temperature sensor and an Omni directional antenna. Nodes continuously monitor the environment to check if there is fire or not in the particular cell. When change in temperature i.e. temperature raises above a certain threshold, is detected by a particular node they send message packets which contain location measurements. These packets are received by one of the corner node. The corner node then sends the packet to the Actor which in turn will process the packet which can be used in reaching the target area to extinguish fire.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, only 11 people were killed in wildfire-related incidents in 2011. But application of the sensor technology to, say, rivers with a high likelihood of flooding, earthquake-prone regions, and other unstable natural centers could give first responders a useful heads-up. When tied in with FEMA's new WEA system, average citizens could have enough advance warning of danger to protect themselves in the event of a natural disaster. And in the event of a fast-moving fire or flood, a few extra minutes could mean the difference between life and death. 




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