Space assets and technologies for bushfire management

Zoe Silverstone, Dharshun Sridharan, Samantha Page, Nipuni Silva, Travis Holland, Toby Rady, Kaja Antlej, Sami Raines, Andy McGarry

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation only


The 2019-20 East Australian bushfires demonstrated the financial, emotional and ecological impacts of bushfires. This paper presents the findings from a cross-disciplinary investigation into the potential use for space assets and technologies in the effective prediction and mitigation of bushfires and communicating risks and impacts to communities. For the purposes of this report, the Australian case study is primary, but the recommendations hold broad international applicability.
Three geophysical components determine bushfire behavior — fuel, topography and weather. Earth Observation data of each component is essential for accurate bushfire prediction. Satellites provide volumes of data informing weather and climate prediction models to improve forecast lead times. Satellite sensors can detect land cover, weather, fuel load and fuel moisture content. Most fires start by lightning strikes (82%) which can be predicted using satellite infrared imagery to determine cloud top temperatures. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) shows topography. Adequate communication of this information to authorities and communities is vital.
Effective use of prediction models can allow targeted hazard reduction methodologies. However, a major limitation is the storage capacity and computational power required for data-storage and high-resolution modeling. Firefighter safety could be improved by use of protective clothing modeled on astronaut space suits and reinforcing fire trucks with thermal protective materials used on spacecraft. An interoperable national communications infrastructure is needed to enable rapid sharing of information and resources with emergency responders and citizens across jurisdictions. Direct satellite-to-mobile phone emergency communication systems ensure a suitable failsafe if ground-based infrastructure is damaged.
Space assets and technologies hold great potential for an innovative and coordinated response to the challenges presented by bushfires.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
EventInternational Astronautical Congress - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 25 Oct 202129 Oct 2021
Conference number: 72


ConferenceInternational Astronautical Congress
Abbreviated titleInspire, Innovate and Discover for the Benefit of Humankind
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates
Internet address


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