FUEGO — Fire Urgency Estimator in Geosynchronous Orbit — A Proposed Early-Warning Fire Detection System
Current and planned wildfire detection systems are impressive but lack both sensitivity and rapid response times. A small telescope with modern detectors and significant computing capacity in geosynchronous orbit can detect small (12 m2) fires on the surface of the earth, cover most of the western United States (under conditions of moderately clear skies) every few minutes or so, and attain very good signal-to-noise ratio against Poisson fluctuations in a second.
Pioneering networks of cameras that can search for wildland fire signatures have been in development for some years (High Performance Wireless Research & Education Network—HPWREN cameras and the ALERT Wildfire camera). While these cameras have proven their worth in monitoring fires reported by other means, we have developed a functioning prototype system that can detect smoke from fires usually within 15 min of ignition, while averaging less than one false positive per day per camera.