Revolutionary Wildfire Detection System Introduced by Dryad Networks Aims to Combat Climate Change Impacts

Dryad Networks is harnessing its vast experience in IT, electronics, and telecommunications to address the very real and devastating problem of wildfires. Using a large-scale IoT network of solar-powered sensors, Dryad’s Silvanet system ensures wildfires are detected and tackled before they can wreak havoc. The sensors don’t just detect fires before they spread; they also pinpoint the exact location, enabling response teams to arrive on site much faster.

There is no escaping it: the acceleration of climate change is increasing the incidence of wildfires. Each year, the fire season lengthens, and more regions are impacted, resulting in tragic loss of life, billions in economic damage, and catastrophic contributions to the global CO2 emissions crisis.

Traditional detection and management have served heroically for many years, but the need for faster and more advanced wildfire detection methods has never been clearer. It’s also apparent that it’s time for a radical new approach.

Enter Dryad, which has introduced the ultimate low-cost solution that “smells” outdoor fires at the earliest possible stage. With the potential for millions of sensors to be deployed across vast areas of forest, first responders will be able to identify, stop, and contain fires before they become catastrophic.

This represents the first significant change in wildfire detection in over 50 years and signals a new era in the fight against the devastation caused by these fires.

Traditional methods of fire detection in high-risk areas include wildfire cameras, watch towers, and satellites, which have all played their part in detecting wildfires and will continue to do so. However, these methods cannot detect a fire until it is already well underway, often when it has penetrated the tree canopy, at which point it has already taken hold and requires a massive response to get under control.

Silvanet – how it works

Dryad’s solar-powered sensors detect very small and subtle changes in the environment, such as increased levels of certain gases or organic compounds, effectively “sniffing” out changes. Embedded artificial intelligence (AI) enables the sensors to distinguish between real fire threats and potential false positives. In the event of fire ignition, real-time alerts are generated to notify authorities, ensuring a rapid response.

Early detection facilitates faster response and evacuation during a wildfire. The difference in the damage a fire can cause for every ten minutes it remains undetected is staggering. Sensor networks cover large areas, providing comprehensive and highly scalable fire monitoring. AI-supported sensors reduce false alarms, enhancing the reliability of fire detection. Continuous monitoring and data analysis improve fire prevention and resource allocation.

By detecting fire threats within minutes, sensors provide a crucial window of opportunity for firefighters to get to where they need to be as quickly as possible. By pinpointing exactly where the fire started (based on which sensor or sensors were triggered), most fires can be extinguished safely and easily and, crucially, prevented from spreading out of control.

If we want to slow climate change, we can’t just contain wildfires; we need to extinguish them earlier. Wildfires are one of the leading carbon pollutants, and climate change is exacerbating the problem. The relationship between wildfires and climate change creates a vicious cycle: fires, once ignited, contribute to climate change, which in turn increases the likelihood of fires.

UK application

While it may seem that large-scale fires are the problem of Australia, Canada, or hot, dry European countries, they are also a threat in the UK.

In September this year, Dryad announced its collaboration with the National Trust, installing 50 ‘ultra-early’ wildfire detection sensors on Marsden Moor in West Yorkshire. The moor is a site of special scientific interest and a habitat for rare birds and plants. In recent years, fires on the moor have caused devastation to the landscape. One catastrophic fire in April 2019 damaged 700 hectares of moorland and took four days to extinguish, causing an estimated £500,000 worth of damage. A later fire in 2021 required over 100 firefighters to tackle it, costing thousands and putting lives at risk.

Now, Dryad’s Silvanet sensors, installed on fence posts on the moor, will detect changes in the atmosphere and send alerts to staff within minutes, reducing response time and lessening the risk of damage to the landscape and its flora and fauna.

This is the first application of Dryad’s disruptive technology within the UK, but the devastating wildfires across Europe this summer should serve as a wakeup call that all countries need to be more prepared to combat the potential for more frequent and devastating large-scale fires. Dryad is hopeful that the National Trust’s installation will act as a catalyst for landowners and public bodies to take action to mitigate their own wildfire risk and reduce the costs of firefighting through ultra-early detection.

Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO of Dryad, says, “Time is everything when it comes to managing wildfires, and our technology gives firefighters the earliest, most reliable warning, coupled with an exact location. Therefore, our aim is to give firefighters the best chance of extinguishing a blaze before it gets out of control and, subsequently, protect the world’s vital forests, making wildfires and their devastating effects a thing of the past.”