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  • Writer's pictureTravis Turgeon

Space-Based Wildfire Detection and Monitoring: A Spire Global & OroraTech Partnership

"One way to better prepare for and manage the ongoing problem is to monitor the risk factors and the spread of wildfires from space, and companies like OroraTech and Spire Global are on a mission to create viable solutions. "

Over the past decade, wildfires have become much more frequent in the US and abroad. Not only have we witnessed more wildfires than in previous decades, but those that have occurred have been far more intense and widespread than before.

Why has this been the case?

For starters, the world’s climate is now changing at a much more rapid pace, sending temperatures soaring beyond previous years, increasing drought timelines, and leaving land management authorities scrambling to find solutions for the quickly changing environment.

Wildfires: A Growing Threat that Must Be Addressed

Shrubland, grassland, and forests cover more than 50% of the land mass in the United States, all of which are essential and vulnerable resources, both environmentally and economically. While wildfires are naturally occurring and provide numerous environmental benefits to these ecosystems, human-caused wildfires are a different story - estimated to be the cause of around 84% of the wildfires in the US in recent years.

In 2018, data suggested that the wildfires in California alone cost the state around $150 billion, and in 2021, wildfires were the cause of approximately 3800 deaths, 14,500 injuries, and $15.9 billion in property damage in the US. On top of it all, it is estimated that wildfires could account for as much as 30% of global GHG emissions.

A big part of the problem and one of the primary factors that drive up these costs and damages is that wildfires have become more and more unpredictable and harder to monitor. Without sufficient wildfire monitoring technologies, there is little hope of mitigating the deaths, injuries, damages, and soaring costs that coincide.

One way to better prepare for and manage the ongoing problem is to monitor the risk factors and the spread of wildfires from space, and companies like OroraTech and Spire Global are on a mission to create viable solutions.

An Overview of the Spire Global & OroraTech Collaboration

OroraTech, a highly-reputable space-based thermal intelligence company, has partnered with Spire Global, one of the world's leading providers of satellite data, analytics, and space services, to solve one of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges - wildfires.

The two companies will work together to build, launch, and operate an 8-satellite constellation dedicated to global temperature and wildfire monitoring by the end of 2024, which will make up one of the world’s first and most expansive systems to track and monitor wildfires and evaluate risk factors that could spark unpredictable disasters. The dedicated satellite constellation will monitor ongoing wildfires and identify areas at risk.

This isn’t the first partnership between the companies either. Spire and OroraTech have already launched two satellites, the Forest Observation (Forest - 1) and Recognition Experimental SmallSat Thermal Detector (Forest - 2), which operate using Spire’s satellite platform and OroraTech’s thermal-infrared optical temperature monitoring tools. The satellites were meant to act as a demonstration of wildfire monitoring capabilities but exceeded operational expectations and are now serving as an active fire monitoring service for clients worldwide. The sensors are currently assisting SOPFEU, Quebec’s fire agency.

The new agreement and partnership for the 8-satellite constellation will build significantly on the existing constellation’s capabilities.

How Will the Service Work, and What Data Will it Provide?

The eight-satellite constellation will launch in 2024, and each satellite will carry one of OroraTech’s thermal-infrared optical payloads and data processing units - which have accurate on-orbit wildfire detection capabilities. The data will be collected by the satellites, downlinked to one of Spire’s many ground stations - which are part of an extensive network collective - and delivered to OroraTech through a proprietary API.

The data provided will help with the following and include:

Wildfire Risk Assessment

  • A fire danger index based on real-time data, with a 9-day forecast and a map of location-specific fire risks.

  • Weather information related to fires, including wind speed & direction, humidity, temperature, rainfall, and more.

  • Real-time lighting data that includes lighting location and frequency.

  • Vegetation and terrain data with information on land cover to help assess ground conditions.

Early Wildfire Detection

  • A network of satellites and sensors ensures up-to-date data for 24/7 wildfire detection and monitoring - updated every couple of hours.

  • Automated notifications and updates regarding wildfires and risks in one or more locations.

  • Data from weather stations, cameras, and sensors can be integrated to locate and predict fires as early as possible.

  • Location and fire size/severity data are delivered for each location.

Real-Time Wildfire Monitoring

  • Near real-time wildfire tracking helps assess current fire areas and projected developments.

  • An activity feed helps monitor numerous fires in one or more locations.

  • Estimated fire propagation data (fire spread data) based on multiple data sources and other external information.

  • An incident management platform helps coordinate response and ensure efficient communication between management teams.

Wildfire Damage Analysis

  • A detailed analysis of wildfire origin and evolution from start to finish.

  • High-resolution mapping of burnt areas and calculations to assess and predict severity.

  • Current and historical fire data can be exported for further analytics.

  • Ability to analyze events based on classifications of fire type and cause.

How OroraTech Will Leverage Spire’s Services to its Advantage

Spire Global is a reputable “space-as-a-service” provider, leveraging satellite payloads in space to solve their client’s most pressing challenges. The partnership with OroraTech is yet another example of how this space-based data subscription model can be used to improve the state of the planet.

Axel Roenneke, the Chief Commercial Officer at OroraTech, said in a statement that to the company, Spire’s subscription data service is “invaluable” for helping them reach a space-based approach and that it makes sense for companies in numerous different areas of expertise meet their goals - especially for startups who don’t have the capital or resources to build and operate their own space-based infrastructure.

In a similar statement, Frank Frulio, General Manager of Spire’s Space Service, said, “At Spire, we have a strong track record of demonstrating and delivering the benefits that space can bring to life on Earth, and I can’t think of a more important and critical application than protecting our environment, people and property from destructive wildfires… Our proven Space as a Service model, where Spire is responsible for satellite platform provision, launch, in-orbit operations, ground and cloud infrastructure, is an easy-to-use service that allows customers such as OroraTech to focus on their applications and end users.”

How Tip and Cue Strategies Could Further Progress In Fighting Wildfires

Spire Global is one of the leading space-based data providers leveraging Tip and Cue monitoring strategies to help alleviate some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The Tip-and-Cue approach helps companies save money and resources by leveraging satellites equipped with low to medium-resolution sensors, which identify a potential problem (such as wildfires) in an area of interest, then tip satellites with higher-resolution sensors to follow up on the concern.

With a tip-and-cue approach provided by Spire Global and its satellite fleet, companies could access more specific data to help with wildfire prediction, monitoring, remediation, and more.

While tip-and-cueing is a broad term that describes an approach for numerous applications, it could prove valuable for governments, companies, and researchers looking to improve strategies to help conserve and protect natural resources, ecosystems, wildlife, and human beings from threats like wildfires.

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