Wildfire Detection System (WFDS) Common Questions And Answers

"The WFDS can monitor grasslands, but it shines in forest settings by detecting smoke far sooner than flames might reach the crowns of tall trees, finally making them visible to observers."

San Diego State University Research Council In The News Publication


Q. What is different or better about WFDS than previous automated wildfire detection systems?
A. Previous automated long-range, 24/7 monitoring/detection/alert systems were expensive, prone to nuisance or false alarms and were complicated to operate. WFDS is a fourth generation system that calibrates each camera sensor to its environment, bringing false alerts to near zero, uses off the shelf camera and networking components which greatly reduce cost and has an improved and simplified operating interface allowing operation with very basic computer skills.

Q. Past iterations of systems similar to WFDS suffered false alarms from camera movement, wind or other sources of vibration. How/why has this improved?
A. Nuisance alarms are primarily caused by camera movement, high reflective movement in the camera range and fast moving clouds. WFDS has developed multiple options that allow for each of these reasons to be eliminated or compensated for, minimizing the nuisance alarms.

Q. You say WFDS is less expensive than other similar systems, why is this?
A. WFDS uses commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) cameras and networking components that are used for other types of outdoor, in-field observation and transmission of data for applications as diverse as civil to oil-field monitoring. The fact that it can work with so many different camera sensors and networking components lowers the cost. In addition, each camera can scan up to 300 square kilometers, meaning less cameras need to be used. And finally, one operator can monitor as many as 25 cameras in a single system mode. If many systems are integrated together (using the very wide area network option), then one center can monitor hundreds of camera locations.

Q. What's the advantage of ground-based automated monitoring systems over manual or other means of fire monitoring, detection and alerts?
A. Aircraft-based systems require a pilot (whether manned or drone type) and are dependent on pilot position, so are often used for spotting location/extent of existing fires. Satellite-based systems have very low resolution, low sampling resulting in limited detection (plus require cooperation among many agencies to implement). Ground-based systems have none of these limitations.

Q. WFDS uses standard off the shelf surveillance type optical cameras rather than infra-red cameras, what's the advantage here?
A. Infra-red cameras, besides being more expensive, cannot typically detect smoke (in fact they are used to "see through" smoke), plus because they generate a non-typical image, less experienced operators may have trouble identifying the cause of the fire when confirming its existence on their monitors. They are "fooled" by the sun and other reflective objects.

Q. Can WFDS see smoke and fire at night or when there are clouds or bright sunlight?
A. WFDS uses a proprietary pattern recognition algorithm that has been proven to detect even small amounts of smoke or fire quickly in a variety of conditions. There are 140 installations around the world that have verified this capability.