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2010 Technical Reports

Report on the Pembroke NVD-Aided Aerial Forest Fire Detection Trials held April 22-25, 2010

Andriychuk, T, Tomkins, L., Zacher, J. E., Ballagh, M., McAlpine, R., Milner, A. and Allison, R.S.

Technical Report CSE-2010-09

York University

September 1 2010


Early detection of forest fires, while still in their emergent stages, could greatly improve suppression effectiveness and reduce overall costs. When used for aerial detection patrols, night vision devices (NVD) have potential to improve response times to potential starts and to improve sensitivity. The flight trials described in this report were designed to explore the potential for NVD aided detection in a real operational context but with experimental control and 'ground truth' knowledge of the fire source.A series of flight trials were run April 22 to 25, 2010 in the vicinity of the city of Pembroke in the Ottawa Valley region of Eastern Ontario. Small test fires were set at known locations within the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) infrared (IR) test grid and continuously monitored by remote data loggers. NVD flight detection patrols for an EC130 helicopter were planned in the region of the IR grid. The observers were the only members of the flight crew responsible for detecting fires and had no knowledge of the fire configuration or location. Each observer flew two detection patrols on separate nights with different configurations of sources.The average detection distance for a fire across all nights was 3,584m (95%CI: 2,697m to 4,471m). The average discrimination distance, where a source could be confidently determined to be a fire or distracter, was 1,193m (95%CI: 944m to 1,442m). The hit rate was 68% over the course of the flight trials, higher than expectations based on the small fire sources and novice observers. The hit rate showed improvement over time, likely as observers became familiar with the task and terrain. There was only a single false alarm, when an observer falsely identified a non-fire target as a fire. Correct rejections were quite common (30 events), likely due to the relatively large number of environmental lights in the test area.The results demonstrate that small fires can be detected and reliably discriminated using NVDs at night from distances compatible with typical daytime aerial detection patrols. The trials provide guidance on altitude and spacing requirements for detection patrols and for cues to discriminate environmental light sources from fires. Analysis of detection performance in ongoing field experiments will help to evaluate the utility of and determine best practices for NVD-aided detection of wildland fires.

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