The danger of wildfires

Joaquín Panigatti
Dec 5, 2016 · 3 min read

A wildfire is a type of fire that extends uncontrollably in an area of combustible vegetation, affecting both flora and fauna. It is different from normal fires since it has a much more wider reach, it’s propagation speed is much higher, it can unexpectedly change directions, and it can even pass through obstacles such as streets and rivers.

Wildfires are classified in 4 types, depending on their gravity:

Level 0: Refered to those fires that can be controled with normal extinction techniques, and that, even if it evolves unfavourably, it poses no threat to the people who are not fighting the fire, although it may harm the forest’s wildlife and vegetation.

Level 1: Refered to those fires that can be controled through the normal extinction techniques, although further means of protection to people and infrastructure may be needed if the fire evolves unfavourably.

Level 2: Refered to those fires for which special techniques not provided by the Plan of the Autonomous Comunity may be needed, or they may cause an emergency situation of national concern.

Level 3: Refered to those fires where national interest is at risk.

What would be our robot’s objective?

When talking about wildfires, to avoid a catastrophe the most effective method is a swift response. A few minutes can be the difference between a major disaster and a triumph by the firefighters. For there not to be any major damage, the only thing to do is inform the firefighters immediately after the fire breaks out. But many errors could be present in the human factor, which is why a robot would be the safest thing to deal with wildfires in plantations. The robot would patrol through paths in the field, reacting immediately to the presence of an imminent fire. When it detectes fire, the robot activates a powerful siren and sends an emergency signal by radio to the closest fire station. This system assures the fastest possible response.

How can it detect fires?

The robot utilizes a system of smoke and combustion detectors that allows it to warn of the presence of the fire in a quick way, which allows the firefighting department to respond effectively. The system priorices combustion detection, since if it were to detect high temperatures the alarm could activate at the presence of a temperature that does not correspond to a fire. If a detector finds an area with elevated temperatures and a high amount of combustion material; or if smoke gets in contact with the robot, it will activate a powerful siren, alerting anyone nearby. Above all, it should be programmed to be much more sensible to combustion components, which is to say, oxidation reactions, which are formed by carbon, hydrogen, and sulfur, with the presence of oxygen. Likewise, when one of its sensors is activated, the robot utilizes its radio transmitter, and sends out a distress signal to the nearest fire station. The robot’s coordinates are also included in the signal, since the robot also counts with a GPS unit. A response as immediate as this assures that the firefighters’ response will be as fast as possible.

What traction system does it have?

The robot utilizes a traction system counting with 3 “caterpillar” tractors, which allows it to move properly even in a sloped surface without losing its stability.

The route the robot takes is set by the user; it knows the way and repeats it indefinitely. However, its assisted direction system allows it to avoid obstacles that may naturally appear on the way. This assures that the robot is not dangerous for animals that may be nearby.

Where does it get its energy from?

The robot is set to pollute as little as possible, which is why it can be classified as a “hybrid” robot. It counts with 2 solar panels, and an electricity generator that provides it with emission-free running every sunny day. However, as a means for it to work during nights and cloudy winter days days (when the energy obtained from the panels is cut down by 79%), it counts with a combustion system. Thus, it has a gasoline supply that allows it to perform when solar energy is not available.

¿Who are we?

We are a group of 3 students from Newlands School, and we decided to get involved with this problematic after one of us worked with wildfires as a project for the major part of a year. We are Lautaro García Mollard, Facundo Gonzalez Soria, and Joaquín Panigatti Bustelo.

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