On average, more than 100,000 wildfires clear 4 million to 5 million acres (1.6 million to 2 million hectares) of land every year in the United States alone, according to National Geographic. Wildfires can occur anywhere (as shown by recent headlines) but are common in the forested areas of the United States and Canada, as well as much of the vegetated areas of Australia and in the Western Cape of South Africa.
It is crucial that a fire is caught as soon as possible in order to control it, saving forests and saving lives. However, many wildfires simmer for hours before they are detected, and by then have grown into a larger fire that is much more difficult to contain.
LADSensors is an emerging fire detection and management platform that utilizes patented sensors alongside artificial intelligence algorithms to predict, detect and manage fire incidents in forests. By measuring metrics such as temperature, CO2 levels, humidity, wind direction and speed, LADSensors cannot only detect the presence of a fire, but can also predict where it will head.
The problem: Many wildfires start in places off the beaten path, where cellular is inconsistent and satellite is expensive if you want to collect and share information. LADSensors needed to ensure it would be able to establish a reliable long-range communication channel between its gateways and sensors in the forest for fire detection and management. It also needed to reduce power consumption to improve battery life in the sensors. João Ladeira, LADSensors’ founder, began to investigate using LoRa technology as an alternative solution to the cellular conundrum. LoRa is a long-range, low-power technology deployed in millions of IoT sensors and is becoming widely used worldwide because it is easy to install, highly economical, and flexible to adapt to any use case. Existing environmental applications for LoRa include monitoring of air pollution, water quality and flow, waste management, metering, irrigation and other monitoring of environmental conditions such as wind, humidity, temperature etc.
Monitoring Conditions to Mitigate Risks
“Thanks to Barracuda’s excellent sensitivity, we are also able to reduce transmission power, thus increasing the sensors’ battery life. Compared to other antennas I tested, we are seeing a 15-20% improvement on the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio.” — João Ladeira, founder, LADSensors
The LADSensors solution consists of gateways and sensors wrapped with a platform that provides users a detailed, comprehensive view of conditions in a monitored area. Sensors are placed in the field up to 15 km apart and connect to a LoRa gateway. They gather values every few minutes that might indicate the presence of a fire, among other characteristics—a sudden peak in temperature or a rise in CO2 levels in the air—and transmit the information wirelessly to the gateways. The data is processed in LADSensors’ platform, where their algorithms determine the probability of a presence of a fire.
Reliable connectivity is key, and LADSensors needed a durable, high-performance, cost-effective antenna for its LoRa gateway, as they need the antenna to receive data from all the node centers. After receiving recommendations from colleagues with RF experience, Ladeira selected a Barracuda, a 6 dBi fiberglass outdoor omnidirectional antenna from Taoglas, a provider of advanced antenna products and RF service solutions. Taoglas’ easy-to-use online system helped guide him through the ordering process. The Barracuda antenna’s collinear dipole design is a great choice for this application because the antenna gives maximum coverage range in the horizontal plane over 360 degrees, minimizing the amount of routers, base stations or nodes needed for such a solution.
The Barracuda’s UV-resistant fiberglass housing also makes it the perfect outdoor antenna for LADSensors as it is weather-hardened for use in harsh environments, including high wind load.
Improved Fire Detection Means Saving Lives and Land
According to Ladeira, the sensors are able to establish a reliable communication channel with the gateways wirelessly at distances up to 15 km thanks to the LoRa radios and Taoglas antennas. “We are getting very strong signals from the node from 8 km away. I was surprised to get such a strong signal at such a large distance; I was expecting only 1-2 km. We are focused on getting even better reception on the gateway so we can go even further away with the nodes,” he said. “Thanks to Barracuda’s excellent sensitivity, we are also able to reduce transmission power, thus increasing the sensors’ battery life. Compared to other antennas I tested, we are seeing a 15-20% improvement on the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio.”
“Taoglas has built its reputation on delivering reliable, high-quality, high-performance antennas to empower designers to create applications that are changing the world, and we’ve made it easy for companies to find the best antenna to meet their needs, order it online and have it shipped immediately,” said Dermot O’Shea, co-CEO, Taoglas. “LADSensors’ emerging fire detection solution helps to solve a critical problem in today’s society: the increasing threat of wildfires to people and landscapes. We’re excited to see how João and his team grow this solution using the power of LoRa and Taoglas antennas.”
While the company’s current focus is on detection, and helping firefighters make well-informed decisions on what actions to take next during a fire incident, “we would like in the future to be able to do things like have a drone go to the fire spot and confirm that there is a fire,” Ladeira said. “There are fire extinguishing bombs you can drop like grenades. Firefighters take time to arrive, and this would give them a head start. It is crucial that a fire is caught as soon as possible in order to control it, and our sensors enable just that at a fraction of the price of conventional systems and with more reliable results thanks in part to the Taoglas antennas.”