Building a smarter forest using drones, robots, and algorithms

April 13, 2012 | Source: The Atlantic

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Cutting-edge tech — algorithms, robots, and drones — could save lives during natural disasters.

That’s the argument made by computer scientists M.P.Sivaram Kumar and S. Rajasekaran in a recent article in the Journal of Computing entitled “Path Planning Algorithm for Extinguishing Forest Fires.”

The vast majority of forests are destroyed by wild forest fires, and current methods of sylvan vigilance — mainly individual personnel on foot patrol — are grossly inefficient in identifying emerging threats.

Kumar and Rajasekaran argue that deploying robotic systems throughout wooded areas will increase firefighters’ ability to identify emerging threats and more effectively plot the path of a wildfire and then deploy the appropriate resources to the right places. They imagine a grid-based system of automated drones, designed to detect abnormal changes in temperature and relay data back to a command center.