Burning and learning: Sunny Coast council’s AI answer to another Black Summer

The Sunshine Coast is turning to Artificial Intelligence to combat bushfires this summer.

Oct 09, 2023, updated Oct 09, 2023
The Sunshine Coast Council will use AI to prevent bushfires this summer. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

The Sunshine Coast Council will use AI to prevent bushfires this summer. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

The council has adopted the technology from local firm exci, which uses cameras and satellite imagery to spot fires and notify emergency services.

The region was hit devastating fires at Peregian in September 2019, which was the start of a devastating fire season on the east coast. It stretched well in the following year and became known as the Black Summer.

Mayor Mark Jamieson said in the recent summers the focus had been on storms and flood risks, but the Bureau of Meteorology had predicted this summer to bring heatwaves and threat of severe bushfires due to the El Niño weather pattern.

The roll-out of the bushfire detection system in the region was the result of a collaboration between QFES, HQ Plantations, Powerlink as well as Sunshine Coast-based businesses exci and Landwatch Australia.

“Council’s primary focus is to ensure the safety of our communities and exci’s sophisticated system will help us rapidly respond to bushfire threats,” he said.

“The swift arrival of our firefighters can be the difference between an easily contained minor incident, and a major bushfire that can lead to extensive destruction.”

exci managing director Christopher Tylor said the system could detect bushfires within minutes, using satellite and ground-based sensor data analysed by machine-learning algorithms.

The data was processed by AI that detects signatures of fires such as smoke and heat. If a fire was detected, reports were immediately presented to the relevant users, such as first responders or asset owners.

Tylor said exci would collaborate with Landwatch Australia, a family-owned business located in Palmwoods, known for delivering remote, camera surveillance solutions to Australian farmers and rural communities.

“Their expertise in crafting rugged terrain-specific camera systems aligns with our wildfire detection technology, making them the ideal hardware partner for us,” he said.

“exci and Landwatch Australia will be installing cameras at new sites located at Gerrards Lookout at Maleny, Dulong Lookout and Mount Coolum.”


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