Building Rapid And Effective Fire-Detection and Management Systems.

By Carl Pennypacker, Aerial Fire Fighting Conference

What Is FUEGO?

Fire Urgency Estimation from Geosynchronous Orbit
and Associated Data Systems (with hoped-for UAV steps in between…), supported by the Vice Chancellor for Research, UC Berkeley.


  • Early detection and continual management of wildland fires
    – natural; accidental; terrorist
    – The Fire Data Cube
  • Potentially valuable for the United States
  • Geosynchronous orbit for 24/7 coverage
  • Supplement ground & air observations
  • Provide real time input for models for prediction and resource allocation
  • Supplement other spaceborne geo observatories
  • Requires real-time assessment of urgency.
    – Urgency is the key ingredient! Must be made quantitative!
    – Requires tight integration with Geographic Information Systems 

What We Hope FUEGO can Provide To This Community:

  • Digital alert to Aerial Tankers within a minute or two of a fire growing beyond 10 sq. meters in size
  • Tracking of the fire size continuously, with resolutions approaching 10’s of meters
  • Temperatures, amount of fire, spread rate,
  • Supplement ground & air observations
  • Provide real time input for models for prediction and resource allocation – direct feed of FUEGO and other local data into models and advice for fire-fighter
  • Supplement other spaceborne geo observatories

FUEGO Objectives:

  • Develop a team of wildfire detection and suppression experts
  • Create a movement for state-of-the-art effective detection,
    modeling, suppression, and follow-up systems, based on
    modern remote sensing, satellite, computing, and modeling
  • Solicit input from potential users, benefactors, and collaborators of FUEGO.

Study Team Members (partial list):

  • Tom Coate – USAF, CHIRP Satellite
  • William Derr, US Forest Service (Ret)
  • Maggi Kelly, Geographic Information Systems,UC Berkeley
  • Gen. Larry Grundhauser (Ret.), Boeing Aerospace
  • Mike Lampton, UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab
  • Carl Pennypacker, UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab
  • Scott Stephens — Wildland Fires, College of Natural
    Resources, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley Lab
  • Chris Schmidt, U. Wisc, GOES Satellite Fire Team
  • Robert Tripp, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
  • Donn Walklet, Terra-vista, Inc.

FUEGO Predicate: WISE Satellite

We could probably build FUEGO for about $60M and put
on “hosted geo-sync platform system” – cheaper then

Unobscured “Fuego12” Optical Concept: Provides clearances for baffling, esp. secondary and tertiary mirrors

Background on Some UCB/LBNL Expertise:

  • We are good at finding small signals in noise
    (from particles in Bubble Chambers to Supernovae at 12 billion light years to genes that can convert grass into car fuel to fixing old records so you can hear them…)
  • Good at taking good ideas with a small team into a
    production scale process. Very interesting and supportive
    ecology for this.
  • Fire signals are huge – background rejection is key art!

Carl Pennypackers Background:

1968-1972: Undergrad UC Berkeley, worked with Luie Alvarez Group, Senior Thesis:”Geomagnetic Cutoff of Cosmic Rays Near Palestine Texas,” JGR

1972-78: Graduate School Physics, Harvard, on “Infrared Studies of Pulsars.” Built almost whole system – detectors, software, electronics myself.

Co-authored a paper on Interstellar Dust with Ed Purcell (Inventor of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance)

1978-present: Supernova Studies. Helped lead development of first working automated Supernova search system.

1982-1992: Lead developer of Distant Cosmological Supernova Search – turned management over to Saul Perlmutter. Led to discovery of Dark Energy and Nobel Prize.

1992-present: Leader of Global Hands-On Universe, a modern astronomy outreach system. Have reached 20,000 teachers worldwide.

Look ahead to fire subtractions…