SkySat image of a post-burn forest site in Victoria, Australia. @ 2021, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Planet’s Rapid SkySat Data Enables Effective Regional Bushfire Management in Australia


Civil governments around the world are making sustainable strides in local environmental management; and by using satellite-enabled data, they are able to analyze and support preventative management techniques to protect local communities and ecosystems. For example, Forest Fire Management Victoria, a governmental organization located in Victoria, Australia, leverages high-resolution tasking capabilities from Planet’s SkySat constellation to analyze its effectiveness in reducing the risk of bushfires in one of the most fire-prone areas of the world. As our climate continues to warm, bushfires pose an extremely serious risk to local communities in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia, but preventative measures, including planned burning, can help reduce fire risk. 

Planned burning is a management technique in which land is intentionally exposed to controlled fires to reduce the amount of vegetation that could provide fuel to damaging bushfires. This technique requires careful ecological calculation to both intelligently manage the potential fuel while also supporting the local ecosystem. As bushfires are a natural phenomenon in this region of the world and often support the health and balance of the local environment, managers need accurate real-time data and robust models to manage this complexity and protect natural assets. To support bushfire managers, NGIS a GIS services company has created a public-private partnership with the Barwon South West Region of Forest Fire Management Victoria to deliver Planet’s capabilities to assess planned burning outcomes in real-time. 

“Australia is so massive, so getting information from space on-demand is a great solution, especially for emergency management domains,” said NGIS Consultant Brittany Dahl when speaking about their partnership with Forest Fire Management Victoria. “They were interested in finding more information for certain months, so we showed them SkySat. What has been amazing about Planet is the tasking dashboard. They can task it anytime after a burn change and the resolution quality is high enough that they can use it for certain vegetation as well.”

SkySat image of a post-burn forest site in Victoria, Australia. @ 2021, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Using the tasking capabilities, Forest Fire Management Victoria analyst Hamish Martin, Landscape Evaluator for the Forest Fire Management Victoria., receives high-resolution Planet satellite images shortly after the smoke has cleared from his team’s planned burns. The data captured in these images supports the creation of burn severity maps, enabling their management team to review achievement against ecological and risk objectives. This operational mapping provides analysts a higher confidence in their predictive models for bushfire management, understanding which areas will provide a reduction in fire spread and intensity and also how species will respond to the fire impacts.

“From an ecological perspective, knowing at a fine scale if a spot is actually burned is very valuable. If we have mapped a location as burnt, but it hasn’t been, then we would be misrepresenting the data when we undertake species or habitat research and monitoring. Generally around communities and critical assets, we treat the land more intensely to keep fuels low. In other areas, our focus is on supporting the ecology with an appropriate fire regime, so we generally don’t want to treat it too intensely. We need to meet the balance,” explained Hamish Martin.

Severity burn map created to indicate how locations were impacted by planned-burns. @ 2021, Barwon South West Region of Forest Fire Management Victoria. All Rights Reserved.

Planet’s SkySats have further enabled rapid revisit capabilities supporting the investigation of bushfire impacts on local flora and fauna in the weeks and months following planned burns. This has provided new insights for the local management team’s critical models regarding species’ responses to fire, including changing forest structure. With these effective tasking strategies, Forest Fire Management Victoria has been able to more accurately model the complexity of these fire-prone regions while also managing the severe risk posed to communities. 

“We acknowledge and respect Victorian Traditional Owners as the original custodians of Victoria’s land and waters, their unique ability to care for Country and deep spiritual connection to it. We honor Elders past and present whose knowledge and wisdom has ensured the continuation of culture and traditional practices,” said NGIS and Forest Fire Management Victoria.

Join us October 12th and 13th at Explore 2021 to learn more about how NGIS and Forest Fire Management Victoria are utilizing Planet’s tasking capabilities to protect Victoria, Australia from bushfires. Register for free