IoT and Mesh Networking Promise Faster Wildfire Detection

The Department of Homeland Security and SCITI Labs continue their multiphase plan to test sensors for detecting wildfires in the western United States. Meanwhile in Germany, startup Dryad is developing a wireless environmental sensor network based on LoRaWAN. All groups expect IoT technologies to identify fires and provide alerts more quickly than satellites and cameras.  


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Image credit: SCTI Labs

California is recording another devastating record for wildfires this year. In early October, the state counted 2.4 million burned acres.

The state most often relies on satellites and cameras for detecting wildfires in unpopulated, forested areas, but adding IoT sensors could raise the alert faster than static images. As the damages increase each year, state and local agencies are looking for more effective options for quickly identifying sparks and alerting first responders.

The agencies are working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to test commercially viable solutions in a multiphase project. DHS and the Smart Cities Internet of Things Innovation Lab (SCITI Lab) started testing four multi-modal sensor providers in 2020. After in-field testing in August, the team narrowed the field to two sensor manufacturers (Breeze Technologies and N5 Sensors). In the project’s next phase, the review team will refine detection parameters and enhance the sensor form factors to allow for more deployment opportunities, such as air quality testing.


Currently, more than 100 sensors are out in specific wildlife areas for long-term performance evaluation. Researchers will find out how they stand up to the harsh California sun and rain, how long their power supplies last, and other critical requirements.

As the testing continues, the team is asking the manufacturers and developers to advance their offerings in specific ways. They want them to consider improving detection algorithms to leverage multiple sensors, decrease time to detection, and reduce false alerts. The team is also exploring software solutions for possible integration with existing first responder technologies.

Dryad Calls On Tree Spirits and Technology to Protect Environment

German-based IoT startup Dryad has also joined the efforts to develop an ultra-early detection solution for wildfires. During its July product launch, the company emphasized speed, claiming to tackle wildfire in under 60 minutes at the initial smoldering stage.

The Dryad Silvanet solution includes:

  • Solar-powered sensors that measure smoke (gas) temperature, humidity, and air pressure
  • Gateways with a distributed mesh network architecture that support a range of LoRaWAN compliant sensors
  •  Cloud-based dashboard for analytics, monitoring, and alerting.

Dryad’s multi-hop mesh network separates it from competitors by allowing Dryad to cover larger areas than those covered by LoRaWAN gateways. The sensors can be placed in areas that have no mobile network coverage, and the Dryad border gateways can connect to LTE/NB-IoT, satellite, or wired Internet to access the Dryad cloud platform.

Green sensor in front of leafy background

Image credit: Dryad

Instead of each base station connecting to the internet, Dryad Silvanet passes information to other stations in its network until it reaches a gateway. The start-up has finished testing in a German forest and has multiple letters of intent from forest owners in Germany and Africa.

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