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2011 Technical Reports

Report on the Sudbury NVD-Aided Aerial Forest Fire Detection Trials held during the Summer of 2010

Tomkins, L., Andriychuk, T, Zacher, J. E., Ballagh, M., McAlpine, R., Doig, T., Craig, G., Filliter, D., Milner, A. and Allison, R.S.

Technical Report CSE-2011-02

York University

February 14 2011


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 wildfire detection in a real operational context. A total of 14 detection flights in EC130 helicopters took place across eight nights between May and August 2010 in the vicinity of Sudbury, Ontario. Flights were planned over regions where a dense pattern of recent lightning strikes were recorded. Initial parameters for flights, including speed, altitude and length of flight were determined in a previous study over the Pembroke IR detection grid. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) was responsible for monitoring various weather patterns, fuel indices and predictive models, in order to predict an increase in the number of lightning initiated forest fires. All members of the flight crew were responsible for detecting and discriminating fires. The results demonstrate that small fires can be detected and reliably discriminated using NVDs at night even when used by novice observers in populated areas. Discrimination proved to be the most difficult part of the task. However, knowledge of the geographical area and experience in NVD fire detection is vital to improve efficiency. NVD detection patrols are a valuable tool for early fire detection if used in a manner that maximizes efficiency, including reliance on user experience, fire intelligence and effective flight path planning.

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