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Managing vegetation to mitigate risk of wildfires

CASE STUDY: POINT4GEO AND UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER

How Point4Geo collaborated with the University of Leicester to identify potential points of fire ignition in proximity to overhead power lines

Since forming in 2013, Point4Geo has firmly rooted itself as the UK leader in the effective and efficient mitigation of tree risk to infrastructure. Combining in-field expertise with data analysis, Point4Geo use space technology to help manage the impact of vegetation management on critical services.

Their latest project makes use of Earth Observation (EO) data from the Sentinel-2 satellites to develop a world first, near-real-time wildfire risk mapping service to be integrated into the suite of services provided by Point4Geo to its clients.

Building on academic experience

Having identified a need for a better system to manage the proximity of trees and vegetation to critical infrastructure, Point4Geo wanted to build upon the development of the RiMiT Monitor™ service to derive a new, accurate fire ignition index using very high spatial-resolution multi-spectral satellite imagery, without the need for LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data collection.

To support the development of the project, Point4Geo collaborated with the University of Leicester – a world-leading institution in the space sector – with funding support from SPRINT. The university’s School of Geography, Geology and the Environment has an established international reputation for EO research and the academic staff involved have high standing professional experience in the field of satellite Remote Sensing, making them the perfect choice.

With a focus on California – given that the state experiences extensive wildfires and the effects of climate change – Point4Geo and the University of Leicester collaborated to build a proof of concept demonstrator that identifies potential points of fire ignition in proximity to overhead power lines.

The SPRINT project extended preliminary work undertaken by a one-year R&D project part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the Leicester Innovation Hub at the University of Leicester, during which research was carried out to understand the relationships between satellite observations of spectral indexes and fire occurrence.

Benefits achieved through SPRINT support

  • Significant acceleration of the development of a fire prediction system – projected to bring the prototype delivery forward by an estimated 6-12 months, due to accessibility to world-class academic expertise and research resource
  • Publication of a thesis, two conference presentations and an ongoing project with CEATI International
  • Point4Geo is continuing to support satellite research activities through the contribution of tools and data, with a view of establishing a physical presence at Space Park Leicester in 2021

SPRINT provides crucial link in development chain

Stephen Bennett, Chief Executive Officer of Point4Geo, said: “Our focus was to develop a near-real-time index that better identifies areas and infrastructure vulnerable to wildfire, mitigating the danger to both the local population and the economy.

“As part of the work, we looked at risk indicators, in particular those areas close to electricity, rail, highway and telecommunication structures. Of particular concern was where tree branches came into contact with power lines, and forest fire prone regions that may threaten infrastructure integrity.

“Using university resources and expertise, we were able to successfully analyse high-resolution optical imagery to characterise and understand how vegetation behaves throughout the year in wildfire ignition hotspot sites compared to fire-free locations. This allowed us to see spatial patterns of high wildfire ignition risk, determining the threat to networks.

Stephen Bennett, CEO of Point4Geo

“With the support of the University of Leicester via SPRINT, the project has provided us with an opportunity to demonstrate the capability of our approach and clearly shows the potential for RiMiT Ignite to be used as a reliable source for wildfire risk detection. We’re now in a position to expand our commercial partnerships to UK and International utility sectors.”


Moving towards commercialisation

Point4Geo has since worked with a developer to build a mock-up dashboard and are now seeking to collaborate with industry specialists to further progress its prototype into a commercial solution.

The company is focused on meeting with Distribution Network Operators (DNO) and Transmission Operators (TO) organisations with a view to better understanding wildfire risk, both in reducing the severe threat of wildfires and in assisting effective and efficient vegetation management.

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