Using AI to fight forest fires – technology can be an ally against climate change, minister tells ANA

It took just two minutes to pinpoint the precise location of a plume of smoke within a 2.5-kilometre radius on Mount Penteli and send the coordinates to link up with fire brigade systems, during a trial using artificial intelligence applications to aid fire fighting, Digital Governance Minister Dimitris Papastergiou told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Friday. There were three trial runs of two different systems, he explained, which used smoke bombs to simulate a fire.

“There are two assumptions that nobody can dispute. The first is that we must become more resilient to the repercussions of the climate crisis, that this is an essential change for the present not the future. The second has to do with AI, which is also a current condition, not a future one. The fires that have stricken various parts of our country this summer also demand that we have fast reflexes as the digital governance ministry and not allow any more precious time to be lost.

“In Penteli we tested two different technological solutions to see to what extent we can detect sources of fire promptly. The initial results are very encouraging and over the coming period, in collaboration with the civil protection and climate crisis ministry, we will evaluate the tests that were carried out in order to quickly proceed with the planning and implementation of the works that are needed,” Papastergiou said.

“Technology is our ally and can provide solutions,” he added, noting that the technologies must now be adapted to real needs and problems.

He said the proposed digital solution include tools such as long-range microcameras and Lidar sensors, which can be installed on existing infrastructure such as mobile phone towers and television transmitters in forest areas. He said these were chosen because they already have an electricity supply and offer security against theft.

The systems being planned to help fight fires will use AI technology to locate smoke plumes and automatically send geolocation data to the fire brigade, while they can also help investigations into cases of arson by precisely recording the time and location where small fires start, while the cameras can also detect people and vehicles.

The first test runs of the systems were carried out on Wednesday, with Papastergiou and Deputy Minister Kostas Kyranakis attending, with links to Civil Protection and Climate Crisis Minister Vassilis Kikilias and Minister of State Akis Skertsos.