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Australia is one of the most fire-prone countries on Earth. Bushfires cost the nation millions of dollars a year in lost infrastructure and productivity, and account for injuries and deaths to humans, livestock and our unique flora and fauna.

Sentinel Hotspots uses data from satellites to help detect and track bushfires in close to real-time. ©  iStock

In order to manage risks, fire-fighting agencies need situational awareness of fire conditions that is up-to-date across wide areas.

Data from thermal infra-red sensors on satellites orbiting Earth can help by detecting fire 'hotspots', parts of the land surface that are noticeably warmer than the surrounding area.

While hotspots do not always indicate a fire, they provide accurate information about the locations and directions of possible fires and fire risk.

Managing fire risk using data from satellites

We worked with the Department of Defence and Geoscience Australia to develop Sentinel Hotspots, a web-based platform that enables users to identify the locations and progression of hotspots close to real-time.

Featuring rapid access to NASA and other satellite data streams through Australian ground stations, data-processing algorithms and a customised interface, this continent-wide mapping system has revolutionised the way that fire information is visualised and risk is understood.

Launched in 2003 and now hosted by Geoscience Australia, Sentinel Hotspots provides daily, consistent, accessible and actionable data to agencies and others monitoring fire risk.

Using Sentinel Hotspots, fire agencies have been able to implement more effective pre-planning efforts as well as establish on-the-ground monitoring and warning systems to protect properties, livelihoods and lives.

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