Optus and ANU to throw satellites, drones, and robotics at Australian bushfires

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The Australian bushfires wreaked havoc. A new study shows that anthropogenic climate change made things worse.


Image: World Weather Attribution

The Australian National University (ANU) and Optus announced on Thursday the pair would attempt to develop a national system to detect and extinguish fires using a mixture of satellites, drones, and robotics.

The first step of the program, which is due to run until 2024, will be to create an “autonomous ground-based and aerial fire detection system”.

It will begin with the trial of long-range infra-red sensor cameras placed on towers in fire-prone areas in the ACT, which will allow the ACT Rural Fire Service (RFS) to monitor and identify bushfires.

The long-term goal, though, is to put out fires using drones.

“We hope to develop a system that can locate a fire within the first few minutes of ignition and extinguish it soon afterwards,” ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said.

“ANU is designing and looking to build highly innovative water gliders with autopilots that will extinguish fires within minutes of them igniting.”

By 2022, it is planned that ANU will manage a constellation of satellites, as well as a geo-stationary satellite, to help with fire detection.

See also: Twitter bots and trolls promote conspiracy theories about Australian bushfires

“If we are able to improve the speed and accuracy of fire detection it ultimately means we can improve our response and better protect communities and landscapes,” ACT RFS acting chief officer Rohan Scott said.

A joint chair for bushfire research and innovation, as well as a research fund, will also be established at ANU.

Also on Thursday morning, Optus announced it would allow customers to provision eSIMs from the My Optus app without needing a physical Optus SIM at some stage.

“eSIM also eliminates the hassle of having to carry